A classic, underground B movie just isn't a classic underground B movie until it's the subject of a 'Mystery Science Theater 3000' episode. This one was, and certainly earned its place there for being frankly pretty damn ridiculous. Once again, this presents a half-decent idea for horror, but its execution is so comical that you wonder if the film is at all self-aware.
The film opens on the day of a wedding when out of nowhere the bride just drops dead after saying the words "I do". This seems to be one of a series of murders involving young brides, and the bride's corpse "vanishing", as after the undertaker takes them away, the body suddenly seems to disappear in transport. No one can seem to find any hints as to what happens with them, but the audience soon learns that they are being taken by a mad scientist named Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi), drugging them with an orchid whose scent places its victim in a form of suspended animation. So they aren't really dead, they just look it.
As one could imagine Dr. Lorenz's intentions with such a plot, the reality is that he's taking them back to his laboratory and stealing their youthful essence in order to inject his aging wife (Elizabeth Russell). Meanwhile, the disappearance of these women sends a young journalist named Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters) under police authorities' noses, looking for answers, herself. One could think of her as a 1940's April O'Neil. She gets more than she bargained for, however, when she finds herself staying at Lorenz's mansion where all of this experimentation is taking place.
With the running time of just over an hour, I can honestly recommend this one for a quick, fun watch - just know that any enjoyment you get from the film is because of how very silly it is. Once again, they have a great concept for the early 40s in delivering a horror movie. This was '42, so people were well aware of certain World War II horrors that were going on in reality. Imagine delivering a film about such creepy experimentation. Even thinking about its plot now, one could look at way scarier things that come close. 'The Serpent and the Rainbow', for example, is a very creepy look at a very real drug that makes one look dead, while they simply can't move.
While it sounds like I'm praising the film, however, it's execution is pretty funny. It can't seem to decide whether its trying to be in the realm of Universal monsters (there's something very "Dracula" about Lugosi's performance here, including the fact that he sleeps in a coffin) or something of a more real-world horror. It's like it's trying to have its cake and eat it too. The funny thing is, sometimes it feels boring and dragging while other times you can't help but have a giggle at everything going on. Some of the best moments involve a little person named Toby (Angelo Rossitto) and an "Igor" type named Angel (Frank Moran). What happens with these two characters is so low-brow by today's standards it's kind of hilarious. Let's just say this is one hell of a dated movie.
Once again, this one was the subject of an 'MST3K' episode, and I must say, one might get more of a kick out of it in that format. But if you get a group of bad movie-loving friends together for about an hour to check this one out, it's just as worth it. My only regret with having this as part of my Classic Horror Review Spectacular is that I didn't have anyone to laugh at it with. For the record, it's easily accessible through 'YouTube' for free from the Horror Movie Archive - so enjoy!