Rites of Manhood

The cover of the souvenir program to the 1926 MGM film TELL IT TO THE MARINES.

Most classic movie fans know that silent film star Lon Chaney was often associated with Tod Browning, who directed him in ten movies starting with The Wicked Darling (1919) and ending with Where East is East (1929). Among their most famous collaborations are the silent version of The Unholy Three (1925), The Unknown (1927) and London After Midnight (1927), which is now considered a lost film. Yet, two of Chaney’s most legendary roles were helmed by different directors. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) was directed by Wallace Worsley and The Phantom of the Opera (1925) is credited to Rupert Julian; both films helped establish Chaney’s reputation for playing monstruous and tortured characters. What tends to be overlooked in his filmography is the fact that Chaney wasn’t always typecast as some kind of grotesque individual and Tell It to the Marines (1926), one of his biggest box-office hits for M-G-M, presents him as a gruff but patriotic Marine sergeant in a stirring romantic drama by director George W. Hill.

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Downsizing

Somewhere between William Castle’s rebirth in the late fifties as the genius movie marketeer of such gimmicks as Emergo (House on Haunted Hill), Percepto (The Tingler), Illusion-o (13 Ghosts) or death by fright insurance policies (Macabre) and his prolific stint as a B-unit director at Columbia Pictures and later at Universal-International is the missing link that connects the two. Although it probably qualifies as Castle’s most exploitive film in the true sense of the word, It’s a Small World (1950) is also the director’s most forgotten film. Continue reading

A Time for Demonic Visitations

“According to the ancient Romans, the Hour of the Wolf means the time between night and dawn, just before the light comes, and people believed it to be the time when demons had a heightened power and vitality, the hour when most people died and most children were born, and when nightmares came to one.”

Setting the stage for what will follow with this ominous introduction, Ingmar Bergman’s 1968 feature Hour of the Wolf (Swedish title: Vargtimmen) is probably the closest the director has ever come to making a horror film, one that crosses over into the realm of the supernatural. Continue reading