Gildersleeve’s Ghost (1944)

Gildersleeve's Ghost (1944)‘Be careful, Uncle Randolph, you’ll strain your ectoplasm.’

Two ghosts rise from the grave to help one of their descendants win the election for the post of local Police Commissioner. Unfortunately, his credibility as a candidate is damaged after he runs into a mad scientist’s pet gorilla which has escaped from a creepy mansion nearby…

By the numbers programmer which cheerfully sweeps up all of the old dark house cliches and mixes them with a mad scientist and an invisible woman to deliver a dispirited comedy trudge through weary low budget mediocrity. It’s all here: the secret panels, the hidden passages, the man in the gorilla suit, the sinking seat cushions, the cases of mistaken identity, the double takes, the lightning storm raging outside. There’s even a cowardly black chauffeur (Nicodemus ‘Nick’ Stewart) to throw his arms about and pop his eyes.

Harold Peary was an American comedian and singer who first came to prominence on the popular radio show ‘Fibber McGee and Molly’ in 1938, where he played the title couple’s neighbour; a man called Gildersleeve. The character was so popular that in 1941 he got his own show, ‘The Great Gildersleeve’ which is generally agreed to be the first ‘spin-off’ show in U.S. broadcasting history. By then, he’d already played the same role in the supporting cast of five low-budget films, so his own feature series as Gildersleeve was probably an inevitability. There were four films in total, of which this was the last. That’s no surprise; when a comedy series resorts to old mansions, gorillas and mad scientists, it’s usually come to the end of the line.

Gildersleeve's Ghost (1944)

‘I think the scriptwriter’s making a run for it…’

Peary is the late Jonathan O. Gildersleeve, who rises from his shadowy grave at the Summerfield Cemetery one dark and dreary night with the idea of assisting his living descendant in his all-American small town political ambitions. Peary is the late Randolph Q. Gildersleeve, who rises from his shadowy grave at the Summerfield Cemetery one dark and dreary night with the idea of assisting his living descendant in his all-American small town political ambitions.

The object of their familial concern is Throckmorton P. Gildersleeve (Peary, again) who’s behind in the polls because he’s a bumbling idiot. Well-meaning, of course, but a bumbling idiot all the same. After all, he seems to have entrusted his campaign strategy to his young niece and nephew (Margie Stewart and Freddie Mercer), who like dressing up in animal costumes. Mercer favours a gorilla suit (please remember this as it is an important plot point that comes up later on).

The two spirits are worried about the proximity of mad scientist Frank Reicher in his creepy mansion so head over there in time to see him experimenting in the basement on both his pet gorilla (Charles Gemora) and an invisible chorus girl (Marion Martin), who conveniently materialises and dematerialises as each scene in the movie requires. Then the ghosts exit never to be seen again. Not even at the wrap-up. Why were they in the movie in the first place? Well, I guess Peary got to wear some different face fuzz and do a couple of silly voices. And it wasted a few minutes, I suppose.

Gildersleeve's Ghost (1944)

‘Don’t worry we can’t afford bi-planes on this budget…’

Enter Throckmorton who stumbles across Reicher’s hairy pet who has escaped from his cage. No-one believes him, of course, because every time they go back to the scene of the crime, the gorilla has vanished (laugh here). So, everyone thinks he’s a bit mad (laugh again) but agrees to hunt for the ape anyway. A storm sees everyone sheltering in Reicher’s crumbling old pile and it’s there that the ‘hilarity’ and hi-jinks really begin.

Peary encounters Martin who he believes to be a ghost. Of course, she vanishes as soon as anyone else arrives, so everyone thinks Peary is even madder than they did before (laugh again). They discuss sending him to an asylum (laugh again because mental health issues are really funny). The gorilla turns up again, but everyone thinks it’s just Mercer in his costume because it’s just so easy to mistake a large, dangerous primate for a 12 year-old kid in his Halloween get-up.

The most interesting aspect of this whole production is the presence of Gemora in the ape suit. Although he had a very prolific career as a makeup artist on many pictures from the late 1920s to the early 1960s, he also donned the hairy suit over 50 times, and in some very notable films. There were early serials ‘Tarzan the Mighty’ (1928) and ‘Tarzan the Tiger’ (1929), and appearances with Lon Chaney in ‘Where East Is East’ (1929) and ‘The Unholy Three’ (1930) before teaming up twice with Bela Lugosi for ‘Island of Lost Souls’ (1932) and a far more pivotal role in ‘Murders In The Rue Morgue’ (1932). That last performance must have impressed someone as he got to reprise the role over two decades later in 3-D remake ‘Phantom of The Rue Morgue’ (1954)!  He also played aliens in ‘War of The Worlds’ (1953) and ‘I Married A Monster From Outer Space’ (1958).

Reicher is familiar to anyone who has watched the original ‘King Kong’ (1933) as he played the captain of the ship that goes to Skull Island. Director Gordon Douglas went onto deliver a number of well-known films of varying quality. There were more low-budget productions like ‘Zombies On Broadway’ (1945) (again with Lugosi) before he stepped up with James Cagney for ‘Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye’ (1950). After that came giant ants classic ‘Them!’ (1954) and projects with Frank Sinatra in the following decade that included ‘Robin and The Seven Hoods’ (1964) and ‘Tony Rome’ (1967). His career ended with the rather bizarre, and generally derided, ‘Viva Knievel!’ (1977).

Desperately uninspired, bottom of the bill spook chaser/old dark house shenanigans that won’t linger in the memory for too long. Probably about ten minutes, give or take.

Master Minds (1949)

Master Minds (1949)‘There’s only one thing to do; better declare a mortuary and look for him at the dentist.’

A young New Yorker suddenly develops the ability to predict the future. Sensing a financial opportunity, his friends set him up as an act at a local fairground. His abilities attract press coverage but also bring him to the attention of an eccentric scientist, who is experimenting with mind swapping…

Leo Gorcey and Huntz Hall got their big break as part of the gang of neighbourhood delinquents in William Wyler’s big hit ‘Dead End’ (1937) which also provided an early role for Humphrey Bogart. From there, they moved through a series of second feature comedies in various screen ‘gangs’ including the Dead End Kids, the East Side Kids and the Little Tough Guys (although Gorcey passed on them, handing the reins to his brother, David!) The boys also jumped from studio to studio (allegedly due to bad behaviour) and, although membership was via a revolving door, Gorcey and Hall remained fairly constant participants.

By the early 1950’s, they were working for legendary skinflint producer Sam Katzman but, after a dispute over money (no surprise there!), Gorcey walked and took Hall with him. Together, they formed their own production company and, despite being in their late twenties by this time, carried on regardless as ‘The Bowery Boys’, releasing an incredible 48 pictures in just 13 years! Originally, the ‘boys’ contained several of players from previous groups, mostly notably Bobby Jordan. However, by the time this film rolled around, Gorcey and Hall were essentially a double act, here backed up by William Benedict, Bennie Bartlett and (inevitably) David Gorcey.

Hall is the hapless ’Satch’ who suddenly develops the power of foresight thanks to a bad toothache! ln what is probably the film’s only original idea, the boys feed him lots of candy to bring on his hypnotic trances. Unfortunately, in the crowd at a show one night is mad scientist Dr Druzik (Alan Napier) and his sidekick Otto (William Yetter). Napier is keeping a prehistoric man (Glenn Strange) in his spooky mansion and decides a mind transfer with Hall is just what the big lug needs. Essentially, this is a formulaic ‘old dark house’ mystery with a little bit of horror and science-fiction thrown in for good measure. The plot owes more than a slight debt to Universal Studios’ hit comedy ‘Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein’ (1948), especially as Strange appeared in that film as the Monster.

Actually, for the first twenty minutes or so, this is surprisingly entertaining for what it is. Gorcey’s spouts his trademark malapropisms, Hall is the willing clown, and the action moves at a fair clip. Unfortunately, after the gang reach Napier’s dusty old mansion, the film simply runs out of plot and resorts to lots of predictable genre clichés. The cast creep around in dark passageways, get hit over the head in cases of mistaken identity, and are constantly confused by Hall’s weird ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ like behaviour. The only real surprise is that no-one pops up in a gorilla costume! Perhaps Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan was busy that weekend.

There are compensations in the supporting cast, however. Napier was a distinguished British stage actor who had worked extensively with Orson Welles and found fame late in life as Adam West’s butler Alfred on the classic ‘Batman’ TV show. Here, he genuinely seems to be having fun as the mad doctor, although it could be that he was just acting, of course. Still, what a surgical team he has! Nurse Jane Adams had previous form passing the forceps for mad doctor Onslow Stevens in Universal’s ‘House of Dracula’ (1945) and Skelton Knaggs brought the chills to dozens of low-budget horror and mystery programmers with his unforgettable face and line delivery.

Master Minds (1949)

The new musical number needed some work…

Also slumming it after his Universal glory days is makeup genius Jack P Pierce, who uses a variation of his work on Lon Chaney Jr’s ‘Wolf Man’ to deliver Strange as the caveman. There’s more of a full-body vibe to his work this time around too; with Strange getting a good amount of hair on his naked torso. No doubt it was done on a small budget, but it’s still far more effective than you would expect in this kind of enterprise.

The billing here is ‘Leo Gorcey & The Bowery Boys’, leaving little doubt as to who was in charge of things. As well as brother David, we also get their father, Bernard Gorcey, who makes an extended appearance and gets plenty of screen time. The series as a whole might have lasted even longer if Bernard hadn’t passed away in a car accident in 1955. Apparently, Leo took it very badly indeed, hit the bottle with a vengeance and left the series shortly afterward. Hall stayed with it for the last half-dozen or so films, but things wrapped up with ‘In The Money’ (1958).

A painless way to spend an hour or so, and classic horror aficionados will get some pleasure out of the supporting cast and seeing another off Pierce’s classic monster makeups.

The Invisible Man Appears/Tômei ningen arawaru (1949)

The Invisible Man Appears (1949)‘Gadzooks, it’s the cops! Let’s go!’

An elderly scientist has been working to perfect an invisibility formula for over ten years. His two best students are also tackling the problem, albeit from different angles, whilst they compete for the hand of his eldest daughter. Unfortunately, the naive professor makes the mistake of showing his research to a slimy businessman…

Apparently, Japan’s first science fiction movie, this serious-minded excursion into H. G. Wells territory is modelled after the Universal ‘Invisible Man’ series of the 1930s and early 1940s. One of the ‘unmasking’ scenes even bares a close resemblance to Claude Rains ‘unwrapping’ in the guest room of the pub in ‘The Invisible Man’ (1933) itself. We also get the usual round of floating cigarettes, sinking seat cushions and naked footprints appearing out of nowhere.

However, instead of the usual ‘mad scientist on the run’ plot, this story focuses more on the criminal possibilities afforded by invisibility, specifically the efforts of a gang of crooks to heist a priceless diamond necklace called ‘Amour Tears.’ Actually, with its skilful use of light and shadow and impressive black and white cinematography, the film often looks more like an American Film Noir than anything else. There’s also an element of mystery about the identity of the Invisible Man, which is unusual, even if the solution is not that hard to guess.

One of the notable facts about this production is the participation of Eiji Tsuburaya, who was in charge of the SFX. These are fairly slick, given the vintage of the film,  but still not quite as good as those delivered by Hollywood in previous years. Tsuburaya was actually blacklisted at the time, having worked with the governing regime during World War II, but he sidestepped the ban by forming his own company, which was credited rather than him. Five years later, he was instrumental in bringing ‘Godzilla, King of the Monsters’ (1954) to life and a long career followed as head of FX with Toho Studios and their stable of monsters. The only other familiar name is that of actor Shosaku Sugiyama, who appeared in ‘Daimajin’ (1966) for rival studio Daei. This folk tale featured a giant statue on the rampage in a coastal community and spawned two sequels.

The Invisible Man Appears (1949)

‘No one will recognise me with these sunglasses on…’

The film was quite a domestic hit and Japanese cinema returned to the character, if not this incarnation, on several occasions. Whether it can be successfully argued that this project paved the way for Japan’s science fiction bonanza of the 1950s is doubtful. This often plays far more like a crime picture with some fantastic trimmings than science fiction and it’s more likely that Japanese filmmakers were still taking their main inspiration from Hollywood rather than from their own recent cinematic history.

A sober and sometimes thoughtful thriller, which puts a slightly different slant on what is now an all-too familiar tale to modern audiences. It may not bring a whole lot of original ideas to the table but presents what it has in a cool, professional manner and provides a decent level of entertainment.

Counterblast (1948)

Counterblast_(1948)‘I think I’d better make it quite clear that I’m not in the habit of pulling peoples’ legs, particularly the legs of my assistants. It’s apt to lead to misunderstandings.’

After the Second World War, a top Nazi scientist escapes from prison in Great Britain. On the run, he contacts the remains of Hitler’s underground spy network. Instead of arranging his escape to South America, they assign him to take the place of a top research bacteriologist at a secret British government laboratory.

Unusual, but dreary British post-war thriller that steps into Science Fiction territory via Herr Professor’s work in germ warfare. A no name cast go through the expected intrigues, romance and spy shenanigans while a clumsy musical soundtrack sledgehammers plot points home for those who may have intermittently dozed off.

Truth be told renegade Nazi brainbox Mervyn Johns is an incredibly rubbish secret agent. Rather than laying low and fitting in with his fellow scientists, his behaviour is stand-offish, dictatorial and sometimes just plain weird. He lets his fanaticism show through so often that It’s a miracle he isn’t rumbled in the first five minutes, but it’s only his elderly landlady that suspects that something is wrong. However, when he starts putting the moves on pretty lab assistant Nova Pilbeam (told you he was a rubbish spy!), hunky colleague Robert Beatty starts to ‘get the lug’ and investigate.

Counterblast_(1948)

‘I think you love that microscope more than me.’

Although the setup initially shows some promise with Johns bouncing from one contact to another in the Nazi underground, by the time he arrives at the lab the film has settled into a dull succession of talky sequences. We’re only too aware of his identity, so the only suspense revolves around what he’s up to, and if he’s going to get caught. His activities mainly involve playing around with test tubes (he does cure the common cold!), but obviously he has a far more sinister agenda.

We’re fairly sure how things will eventually come out, of course, which results in absolutely zero tension. But what really sinks this enterprise is the hopelessly contrived and drippy romantic sub-plot. The love triangle is scarcely credible, and brings the story to a shuddering halt. Of course, the suspicion here is that it’s just there to pad the running time to its near 98 minutes (count ‘em!) and nothing occurs in the later stages of the film to dispel that notion.

Performances are professional, if uninspired, a description that could just as easily be applied to the entire project. The presence of stage actor Archie Duncan briefly brings a touch of life to the proceedings, but his skills were better utilised in the Ronald Howard ‘Sherlock Holmes’ TV series, where he featured regularly as Inspector Lestrade, and played other roles, including a woman! The film ends with Herr Professor on the run with a test tube of lethal plague, but director Paul M Stein can evoke little tension in the outcome when the build-up has been so underwhelming. The climax is unusual, but not very dramatic and the film slips away into the graveyard of forgotten quasi-Science Fiction with barely a whimper.

Distributor Herbert Bregstein changed the title of the film to ‘Devil’s Plot‘ when he sold it to American theatres in 1953. It wasn’t only a better title, it also helped to hide that the film had already been sold to television under its original name!

The Mysterious Mr. M (1946)

The_Mysterious_Mr_M_(1946)‘We realise on this end how disastrous it would be if an engine capable of moving submarines as large as ocean liners should fall into the hands of the Mysterious Mr. M…’

Professor Kittridge has invented a revolutionary new submarine engine in secret. When he is murdered by a foreign power, the race is on to track down all the components and the blueprints to put them together. Agents from Washington find themselves up against a sinister criminal mastermind, who will stop at nothing…

Wonderfully convoluted movie serial from Universal Studios, which makes up for what it lacks in logic with sheer pace and action. Wooden good guy Dennis Moore locks horns with criminal mastermind the Mysterious Mr M, who communicates by the medium of long playing record. This infuriates underling Edmund MacDonald who actually came up with the identity as a cover for his own nefarious schemes, and is less than chuffed when someone appropriates the title and starts giving him orders. MacDonald is Anthony Waldron, a man presumed dead by the police (we never find out why they’d be interested one way or the other!) and living in a secret laboratory in his grandmother’s basement. He has control of Granny’s money by use of his confederates Danny Morton and Jane Randolph, who keep her dosed up with a chemical from Africa called Hypnotrene, which they also use on people for purposes of mind control. You see, it’s all perfectly feasible!

The plot is the usual round of chases for individual elements of the Professor’s invention; sometimes mechanical components, more often than not plans or formulas. One of these is a radar device, which, rather brilliantly, the villains miniaturise into an earpiece for more mind control purposes! Moore is aided by insurance investigator Pamela Blake who, mostly, acts as the ‘damsel in distress’ but does get to land an aeroplane single handed, despite having no experience as a pilot. lt always amazes me that insurance investigators, journalists, and the like are often allowed in on investigations concerned with matters of national security, but I guess it was government policy back in the 1940s.

The_Mysterious_Mr_M_(1946)

Dennis Moore either had indigestion, or he had just been shot. It was hard to tell…

Universal obviously weren’t as well known for their output of movie serials as Republic or Columbia, but they made a fair amount. Usually, they were not on such outlandish subjects, so it’s nice to see them making an exception and delivering a decent effort, packed with the usual bouts of fisticuffs and cliffhanging chapter endings. The presence of Moore in the lead is a weakness though, and sidekick Richard Martin seems to have had the same personality bypass.

On the bright side, however, MacDonald is excellent in the role of the ruthless Waldron, and it’s nice to see Randolph playing something other than the goody two shoes heroine menaced by the ‘Cat People’ (1942). Veteran character actors Joseph Crehan (370 credits!) and Byron Foulger also appear. Foulger gets a little something to sink his teeth into for once, instead of just being strangled by Karloff in the opening minutes of ‘House of Frankenstein’ (1944).

Rather unusually, we don’t get captions at the start of each chapter (or a voiceover) to summarise what went on the week before. Instead, we get a short dialogue scene – usually featuring Crehan as the local police chief – which brings us up to date on what’s just happened. The wider story is recapped later on each week thanks to painfully over-explanatory dialogue between other characters. ‘Submarines as big as ocean liners’ is not usually a common subject for conversation in everyday life but crops up with surprising regularity here!

One of the better later movie serials with more than its fair share of explosions, crashing automobiles, energetic bouts of fisticuffs and last minute escapes. Thoroughly entertaining.

Tainstvennyy Ostrov (Mysterious Island) (1941)

Tainstvennyy ostrov (1941)Twelve years had passed since the disastrous M.G.M version…

A group of civil war soldiers escape from a besieged town in a balloon, but a storm blows it out over the ocean and wrecks it on a strange island. The survivors try to adapt to their new surroundings, helped by an unseen presence that seems to have their best interests at heart.

Technically limited but remarkably faithful take on the Jules Verne novel, most successfully filmed in 1961 with the aid of some giant monster magic by Ray Harryhausen. There are no giant creatures here, of course, but it is notable for having Russian actors playing Americans, and for the fact that it resists the addition of Venusians, refugees from Atlantis, undersea dragons, and all the bizarre elements that other filmmakers have brought to the story over the years.

Unfortunately, without all that, we’re left with a very talky picture indeed, enlivened only by the appearance of pirates and an ape manservant. It’s always a problem when adapting Verne; his novels often being stuffed with facts but rather light on story development. The film was shot on the shores of the Black Sea and the locations do supply visual interest, but with a rather dull bunch of protagonists, this seems a lot longer than the fairly brief 75 minute running time.

Predictably, the most memorable sequences come at the climax of the story with the appearance of the Nautilus and respected Soviet actor Nikolai Komissarov as Nemo. But the most notable name attached to the project is actually composer Nikita Bogoslovsky. This was an early score in an international career that included 8 symphonies, 17 operattas and over 100 other film and theatre credits. Although performances of his works were banned during the Stalin area, in later life he received many prestigious awards from the Soviet State.

Tainstvennyy_ostrov_(1941)_2

A lie told often enough becomes the truth.

The most unusual presence in the production is black American actor Robert Ross. He had settled in the Soviet Union a couple of decades before, shortly after the people’s revolution. According to available sources, this was his only film role and he worked mostly as an unofficial ambassador for black U.S citizens who wished to relocate in the new Russia. In later years he was a well respected lecturer on American affairs in Moscow.

As a work of cinema, this is strictly unremarkable material, a flat and uninspired exercise, which should be watched for curiosity value alone. After all, it’s not often that you see Russian actors playing Americans in a story written by a Frenchman.

The Monster and the Ape (1945)

The Monster and the Ape (1945)‘Ken Morgan and Professor Arnold locate the stolen Metallogen but, before Ken can recover it, he is attacked by hirelings of the treacherous Ernst. Suddenly…’

Professor Arnold has discovered a wonderful metallic element derived from a meteorite (weren’t they all?!) and uses it to control his 7-foot robot. Unfortunately, twisted genius and former colleague Professor Ernst plans to grab the robot as part of his evil plans…

Movie serials obviously made good financial sense for the studios. Hopefully, ticket buying audiences would keep coming back for more each and every week. But 15 chapters at roughly 20 minutes each was an awful lot of screen time to fill, especially when you didn’t have much plot or a decent budget. This was Columbia’s 26th serial and they had yet to engage the fearsome writer-producer-director trio of Plympton, Katzman and Bennet, although all were already working in the genre. Once they got into their groove the studio’s output notably improved but that was later on. At this point their product was flimsy at best.

It may seem a little churlish to highlight some of the inconsistencies in the story when this was simple entertainment made for young kids but they are probably the most interesting aspect of the final result. For a start, how did Professor Ernst just happen to have a house full of secret panels, which link to underground tunnels? The most useful of these actually comes out in the back of Thor’s cage in the local zoo. Thor is a gorilla and Ernst uses him as a weapon in his dastardly scheme. Why? Well, I don’t know really. He doesn’t do anything that Ernst’s goon squad couldn’t do. Somehwat inevitably, Thor is played by Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan, a man whose entire career consisted of playing cowboys and jumping around in a monkey suit. Thor is actually a fairly frisky fellow and I couldn’t help but think that Corrigan may have been getting his own back on some of the actors, who were literally yanking his chain.

The Monster and the Ape (1945)

‘Just untie me and we’ll see who’s stupid…’

For once, our heroes (the Prof, his beautiful daughter, valet/chauffeur Flash and hunky Ken Morgan) actually get the police involved and they do save the day a couple of times. But, having said that, they are pretty clueless and the patrolmen seem quite happy to take Morgan’s orders, even if he is just the representative of a manufacturing company! Ernst learns our heroes plans by bugging their lab. His method? Have one of his goons dressed as a street sweeper stand outside their window and listen in! Genius.

George MacReady stands out as ice-cold villain Ernst, giving a far more credible performance than the material really deserved. He went on to a long and distinguished career as a character actor, the highlight of which was probably his portrayal of the Brigadier General in Stanley Kubrick’s classic ‘Paths of Glory’ (1957). Robert Lowery, here playing the unstoppable Ken Morgan, went on to become the big screen’s 2nd Batman in the serial ‘Batman and Robin’ (1949).

The biggest downside here is the depiction of Professor Arnold’s dim-witted and cowardly manservant, Flash. Although it was probably a welcome paycheque for black actor Willie Best, it can’t have been pleasant to play a character that stupid, being patronised that much by clever white people. It’s not pleasant to watch and it can’t have been pleasant to play.

Man With Two Lives (1942)

Man_With_Two_Lives_(1942)‘That dog’s heart hasn’t missed a beat in 189 days.’

Doctor Carter is messing with things that man must leave alone in his low rent Frankenstein lab, bringing dead animals back to life by reanimating their hearts. When his assistant dies in a car wreck, he tries the procedure on him. Unfortunately, a vicious gangster is being electrocuted at the exact same moment…

Sparks fly, wheels spin and strange devices crackle and hum in this efficient little programmer from Monogram studios that boasts some decent production values. For once our ‘mad doctor’ isn’t mad at all; he merely seems misguided. As his friend (and the movie’s conscience) points out; he just gives no thought to the ‘creator’s higher plan’. When his assistant returns to life, he’s physically normal but has taken on the gangster’s personality and habits. He shuns his family and friends and is no longer interested in his fiancée, preferring the company of Marlo Dwyer, who scores high as the dead gangster’s moll.

'I've always wondered... why are we wearing our hats indoors?'

‘I’ve always wondered… why are we wearing our hats indoors?’

In the lead role, Edward Norris is equally convincing as the regular guy and the cold hearted killer, racking up the notches on his gun during the crime wave he masterminds. Director Phil Rosen had a career that began in 1915 and carried on until his death in 1951. Along the way, he brought us the Bela Lugosi-East Side Kids mash-up ‘Spooks Run Wild’ (1941) and the awful – but hilarious – ‘Return of the Ape Man’ (1944). He was usually a safe pair of hands though and helmed several entries in Sidney Toler’s ‘Charlie Chan’ series.

Sadly, the ‘Man With Two Lives’ (1942) really blows it all right at the end with a twist so lame that it’s staggering in its very banality. All the good work of the previous hour unravelled with one dumb nod to studio conventions. For shame!

Unknown Island (1948)

Unknown Island 1948
Why the dinosaurs died out – the mystery solved!

Thank god for Hollywood, answering the great questions of the universe. Why did the dinosaurs die out? Because they were a bit crap!

Apparently all they could do was sway from side to side a bit like they’ve been nipping at Grandma’s sherry and walk as if they’ve got their trousers around their ankles. It’s not a great survival technique.

In fact the only beast that can move quickly on the ‘Unknown Island’ (1948) is a sort of giant ape and that’s because it’s played by Ray ‘Crash’ Corrigan – once the star of hilarious 1936 serial ‘Undersea Kingdom’. As far as the reptiles go, I couldn’t work out whether they were guys in suits that didn’t fit or terrible model work or a mixture of both.

Unknown Island 1948

The last pint always had unforseen consequences…

The plot? Well, it’s the usual: idiotic explorer and his girlfriend charter a boat to try and find a legendary lost island, which is supposed to have dinosaurs on it. They hire Barton MacLane’s ship, obviously unfamiliar with all those gangster movies he did in the 30s for Warner Brothers. And of course they take along a handsome drunken survivor who escaped from the island before. Under the woman’s influence he cleans up and of course we can see where that’s going – the interaction between the lead characters is painfully predictable. Anyway, they get to the island, fanny about a bit, some people are killed by the arthritic dinosaurs and so on…

Actually, I believe this was the first colour movie to feature dinosaurs (if you don’t count the tinted scenes in Willis O’Brien’s 1925 version of ‘The Lost World’). Unless someone out there knows different of course…!