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Forgotten Greats of Universal Horror by Mark Heike

Lionel Atwill photoIn our household, the last week in October gets us into the Halloween mode, which means a steady diet of horror movies on video until the big day arrives. Since we’re big fans of the classic Universal monsters, we usually go through the whole library on an annual basis, from the 1931″ Dracula” right on through 1956 “Creature Walks Among Us.” I’d thought I’d seen them all, until we turned one up that was new to me- 1942s “Night Monster.” Starring two of my favorite character actors from the Universal repertory company, Bela Lugosi and Lionel Atwill; it’s interesting and does feature a very different kind of “monster”, but is not really one of the great ones, despite tasteful directing by Ford Beebe. Now everyone remembers Lugosi and his place in the history of great horror cinema, but Atwill’s work seems all but forgotten today, perhaps due to his passing at a relatively early age, in the late 1940s. His clipped British accent and precise manner always livened any film he was in, be it portraying an officious police inspector, arrogant doctor or mad scientist. “Bride of Frankenstein”,”Son of Frankenstein,” “Ghost of Frankenstein,” “House of Frankenstein,” Man Made Monster,” “Doctor X,” “Mark of the Vampire,” “The Gorilla,” “House of Dracula,” and “The Mad Doctor of Market Street” were just some of the genre films Atwill made, for Universal and other studios. If you’re not familiar with his onscreen work, check out or great DVD of the 1942 Captain America” serial, where he plays the villainous Scarab. While it was not his finest hour, he turns in a fine performance as the stories’ villain.

4 Responses to "Forgotten Greats of Universal Horror by Mark Heike"

  1. Bill Black  November 2, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    Yeah, I found one I’ve never seen… DEAD MEN WALK (I think), an old PRC with George Zucco. Hope to watch it soon. On Halloween I watched CAPTAIN KRONOS, VAMPIRE HUNTER, a Hammer film done by the same creative team that did TV’s THE AVENGERS. Had not seen this in many years. Also watched 3 YANCY DERRINGER episodes with Jock Mahoney.

    • Mark Holmes  November 3, 2011 at 1:13 am

      Captain Kronos was all kinds of cool. I have a huge crush on his girl in that movie Caroline Munro, best known as a Bond girl in “Spy Who Loved Me” and as Stella Star in “Star Crash”. Stella Star is a clone of Stormy Tempest. Stormy predates her by a number of years.

  2. Bill Black  November 5, 2011 at 1:44 am

    Yes, DEAD MEN WALK is very slow and tepid. But it is a vampire movie that I had never seen until Nov 1. You’d think there were lots of vampire movies in the 1930’s and 1940’s but actually there were very few. Zucco is uninspired but Dwight Frye is on hand in a very Renfield type role. And Al “Fuzzy” St. John, later to become Lash LaRue’s sidekick, pops up in it, too!

  3. Al Stone  November 5, 2011 at 6:26 pm

    Did Zucco & Lionel Atwell ever do one together? Would think they would have made a great horror team

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