Reginald Le Borg was a banker in Austria and a director in America, making low budget horror at Universal like The Mummy’s Ghost and Weird Woman. Released along with The Creeping Unknown, it was ahead of the Shock Theater package that would ignite a new interest in Universal’s horror movies. It’s also Bela Lugosi’s last movie, although footage of him appears in Plan 9 from Outer Space.
Dr. Gordon Ramsay (Herbert Rudley) claims that he is innocent yet remains in jail, guilty of murder, when surgeon Sir Joel Cadman (Basil Rathbone) offers him a chance at redemption. All he has to do is assist him with some experiments, starting with taking a potion called The Black Sleep, which will put him into a deathlike slumber.
After the “dead” body of Ramsay is discovered in his cell, Cadman takes the body for burial and revives Ramsay back in his lab. There, he’s attempting to learn the mysteries of the brain so that he can bring his wife Angelina (Louanna Gardner) back to life. One of his servants, Mungo (Lon Chaney Jr.) was once Doctor Monroe, one of Ramsay’s former teachers. Now he’s a monstrous beast barely under control. And then there’s the mute — and frightening — Casimir (Bela Lugosi).
So why do Laurie (Patricia Blake), Odo (Akim Tamiroff, who replaced Peter Lorre, who wanted more than this production could pay for) and Daphnae (Phyllis Stanley) work for him? It turns out that Laurie is Mungo’s daughter and wants her father to be normal again. That said, there’s an entire basement filled with experiments that haven’t worked, broken human beings — like Tor Johnson — led by a maniacal preacher named Borg (John Carradine). They’re so close to breaking through the doors to the lab…
The Black Sleep has a great cast but doesn’t do much with them. But it’s a fast movie and if you don’t think too much — or want to hear Bela speak — you may enjoy it.
The artwork in this film was destroyed in a ritual.
This is the only record that they were ever here.
Harrington said this of the film’s subject, Marjorie Cameron: “Before I made the film I’d heard from Renate that Cameron had spent some time in the desert trying, through magical means, to conceive a child by the spirit of Jack Parsons without success. Cameron never spoke of Jack directly, but I do remember feeling sometimes when I talked to her, of her going off into a realm that I didn’t understand at all. It was sort of an apocalyptic thing and it’s there in her poetry.”
So who was Cameron?
An artist. A poet. A muse. A cartographer for the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the war. A member of the propaganda machine. An occultist. An actress. Perhaps the Whore of Babylon.
And the love of Jack Parson’s life.
Parsons, the man who helped invent the rockets that got us to the moon, the man whose lodge housed numerous icons of science fiction, a devotee of Thelma and Crowley and the man who had just finished a series of Enochian rites with L. Ron Hubbard to invoke his elemental lover after Hubbard stole his wife.
When Cameron showed up at his home, red hair burning and blue eyes blazing, they ended up having sex for two weeks straight.
After Parson’s death, she started rituals to create a moonchild, which often involved slashing her wrists. As her mental state worsened — or improved, look I have no idea and my belief system is pretty wild myself — she came to understand his purpose in carrying out the Babalon Working that invoked her. On a diet of marijuana, peyote, and magic mushrooms, she proclaimed all the many ways that she saw the world would be destroyed.
Somehow, in a life beset by mental demons and intense drama, Cameron produced art. A woman making art in the male-dominated world of the 50s. She dated outside her race, which was illegal at the time, but she also ran a sex cult, so I don’t think the law mattered, outside of love is the law, love under will.
I’ve been fascinated by her for years and will be for the rest of my life. The Wormwood Star is one of the few ways to see her work and her up close. She’s absolutely terrifying in this film and I can’t even imagine what she was like in person. Similarly, she’s a force of absolute magic in Harrington’s Night Tide.
Life is filled with magic. Find it. Live it. Let it drive you wild, let is make you insane.
As another source of obsession, James Shelby Downard wrote, “Never allow anyone the luxury of assuming that because the dead and deadening scenery of the American city-of-dreadful-night is so utterly devoid of mystery, so thoroughly flat-footed, sterile and infantile, so burdened with the illusory gloss of “baseball-hot dogs-apple-pie-and-Chevrolet” that it is somehow outside the psycho-sexual domain. The eternal pagan psychodrama is escalated under these “modern” conditions precisely because sorcery is not what 20th century man can accept as real.”
Also known as The Flesh Merchant,Sex Club andDial 5683 for Love, this W. Merle Connell-directed (Untamed Women, Test Tube Babies) frolic tells the sordid tale of Nancy Sheridan, a twenty-something fresh off the bus looking for her sister in Hollywood. Unlike something like The Seventh Victim, where one finds Satan, instead here one finds sin.
Sure, she finds her sister Paula and falls for the high end opulence she has in her Hollywood apartment, what with all the fancy furniture and fur coats. Older sister tells her to scram, but how do you send a girl back to the farm when she’s seen La-La Land?
Paula’s in-road starts at the art institute, where she poses nude, and let me tell you, I went to an Art Institute and none of our models looked like Joy Reynolds does in this movie.
Let me ask you — inspired by the review that the much more intelligent than me G.G. Graham wrote — what’s the worse prison? Selling your body willingly and making the money that your gifts have earned you from a variety of gentlemen or giving it all away for the slavery that lies behind a white picket fence? Is Nancy right to fall in love with the night? Does Paula wish she hadn’t made the same mistakes? Are we to pull morals out of a movie that has a normal cut and one with smoker inserts?
In IMDB user Schwenkstar’s Hollywood Giallo (+ Its Others) list, they state that this film pulls “the same trick Argento uses frequently in his films: a character sees/hears something but misinterprets it, misleading the character as well as the audience.”
Based on the Philip MacDonald book Warrant for X, this film also takes cues from Rear Window, placing a differently-abled person against criminals that came after them in the dark. This time, the hero is Philip Hannon (Van Johnson), a blind playwright who believes that the partial conversation he’s heard is related to a possible kidnapping that hasn’t even happened yet.
With the police disbelieving him, he is thrust into the role of the giallo hero: a stranger in a strange land and one even stranger because he only knows the steps from building to building and will never see this new skyline, a place that he’s escaped to in avoidance of his depression over his loss of sight. Those simmering feelings of a bleak future have led him to leave Jean (Vera Miles, who would soon appear in another essential giallo inspiring film, Psycho) behind in America, but she’s come to England which puts him even more off his hermetic path.
Director Henry Hathaway is probably best known for True Grit and The Sons of Katie Elder, but he put together a fun mystery here, a film that exists before the krimini and giallo yet has many of the things we’d later see in much more lurid tales.
Directed by Fred F. Sears, The Werewolf tells the tale of Duncan Marsh, who has been operated on by some doctors who want to create perfect humans who will survive the coming nuclear winter by injecting irradiated wolf serum into their blood. Of course, the side effect is that they become werewovles, but there you have it.
Not only is this science fiction werewolf one that doesn’t require a full moon to transform, even if the budget necessitated day for night shooting, he can also be killed by normal bullets. Man, when will scientists stop playing God? Or the devil? Or whatever creates lycanthropes?
Sheriff Jack Haines is played by Don Megowan, who is usually on the side of the monsters, playing the Gillman in The Creature Walks Among Us and the monster in the TV show Tales of Frankenstein. He also shows up in another werewolf film, the 1974 TV movie Scream of the Wolf.
The Werewolf is one of four movies on Arrow Video’s new Cold War Creatures: Four Films From Sam Katzman set along with Creature with the Atom Brain, The Zombies of Mora Tau and The Giant Claw. Each film has a 1080p blu ray presentation, along with a fully illustrated 60-page collector’s book featuring extensive new writing by Laura Drazin Boyes, Neil Mitchell, Barry Forshaw, Jon Towlson and Jackson Cooper, as well as 80-page collector’s art book featuring reproduction stills and artwork from each film and new writing by historian and critic Stephen R. Bissette, the former artist of Swamp Thing. Plus, you get two double-sided posters featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Griffin and reversible sleeves for each movie with original and newly commissioned artwork for each film by Matt Griffin.
TheWerewolf has tons of great extras, like an introduction by Kim Newman, commentary by Lee Gambin, a visual essay concerning the role of women in the films of Sam Katzman by historian and critic Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and a Super 8mm version of this movie.
A hollow earth movie that posits an underground civilization created by Sumerian descendants who worship Ishtar. Never mind that Sumerians and Ishtar have no connection and the true symbol of Ishtar is an eight-pointed star, not to mention that all of the gods in this movie are really Egyptian. But hey — it does have the great flood symbolizing the journey to the underworld and was probably influenced somewhat by the Shaver Mysteries that dominated Amazing Stories from 1945 to 1948 (see Beyond Lemuria and Encounters with the Unknown for more film evidence of the Shavers, the hole to hell and Lemuria itself).
I absolutely love that this movie starts with an introduction from University of Southern California English professor Dr. Frank Baxter, who explains the premise of the film and how it may have some basis in reality. How many movies take the time to discusses the hollow earth theories of John Symmes — whose Hollow Earth theory taught that our world is mae up of five concentric spheres, with the outer earth and its atmosphere as the largest — and Cyrus Teed — a physician and alchemist who became a self-proclaimed messiah, taking on the name Koresh and proposing a new set of scientific and religious ideas he called Koreshanity, which taught that our planet and sky exist inside the surface of a larger sphere.
Archaeologists Dr. Roger Bentley (John Agar) and Dr. Jud Bellamin (Hugh Beaumont, Beaver’s dad) have found the hollow earth and meet the Sumerian albinos and their mutant mole man slaves*, who all eat mushrooms because why not? Whenever they start having too many people, they stop overcrowding by sacrificing women to the Eye of Ishtar. But everyone — other than a girl named Adad — is so sensitive to light that the fact that the scientists have a flashlight must mean that they are gods. Oh yeah — Ellnu, the High Priest, is played by Alan Napier, who would soon enough be Batman’s faithful butler Alfred.
This was Virgil Vogel’s first film, which he would follow up with The Kettles on Old MacDonald’s Farm and Invasion of the Animal People before a career mostly spent in television.
For some reason, Adad is unceremoniously crushed before the end of the movie, just when she gets near the surface and nearly escapes. Supposedly, Universal thought that Bentley’s romance with Adad would promote interracial relationships. Never mind that John Agar and Cynthia Patrick were both white. They reshot the new ending where she gets smashed and that was that.
Imagine a movie in which every single actor is an animal with all of the voices being done in post-production. Just sit back and let this wash over you, as Chassidou the cat loses the town’s magic wand to the evil monkey known as Black Genie.
Black Genie takes Barbara the duck hostage, so Saturnin the duck and Chassidou ride a balloon to the Land of the Doves to attempt to discover how to defeat the wizard.
This played in the U.S. as The Secret of Animal Island. It had to decimate minds, because I’ve watched it so many times and it continually amuses and enthralls me while making me wonder just how did this get filmed and how hard was it to make?
Director Jean Tourane also made a Saturnin TV series and another movie with the heroic duck that’s called Saturnin et le Vaca-Vaca.
Do you want to see a fox shampoo a chicken? A frog do a motorcycle stunt? A rabbit smoke a cigarette? Of course you do.
Editor’s Note: We’ll also discussion two, even more obscure Ormond family productions, with the films Surrender at Navajo Canyon (1980) and The Sacred Symbol (1984), in the context of this review.
You wouldn’t know it by the lobby card, but this isn’t a soft skin flick or film noir rife with sexual innuendo: it’s a film about palm reading.
Yes. Palm reading.
Well, at least the guy’s palm is pawing the woman.
If you know your Ron Ormond history, you’ll know the Nashville-based indie filmmaker began his show business career as a vaudeville magician, while his soon-to-be-wife, June Carr, worked the stages as a dancer and singer. So it makes sense, since palm reading was part of the traveling circus and carnival roadshows of the day, that Ron Ormond would want to preserve the art of palm reading and fortune telling — as he did with minstrel shows in the frames of Yes Sir, Mr. Bones.
The Eternal Question, a black and white-shot film, is actually an Americanized remake of a part documentary/part dramatic film produced in the U.K. about a palm reader and the life of his clients, known as Hands of Destiny (1954). Produced by Ron Ormond, he took a co-writing credit as result of his tweaking screenwriter Tony Young’s initial script. They both co-directed the remake, which features the same cast as Young’s film.
Hands of Destiny concerns then famed Austrian palmist-to-the-stars Josef Ranald, who rose to fame with his book, How to Know People by Their Hands (1941), which served as the source material for the film. As a reader of everyone from Adolf Hilter to Bob Hope and Gary Grant, Ranald claimed — in the pages of his book and the film he co-scripted — the “evil” of people could be read in their hands. To that end: though the course of the film, Ranald, appearing as himself, saves the life a woman from a suicide-drowning via a reading; he reunites a long-lost mother and son by comparing their similar palm prints, etc. And that’s the tale: a collection of vignettes of Ranald’s work as a palmist. During the course of the film, we’re treated to his signed collection of palm prints from U.S. presidents, celebrities, and even Nazi officials.
It is said that Ormond’s version isn’t so much a remake, but a re-editing of the British film (thus the identical cast), with new inserts added, such as an intro sequence with Charlie Chaplin. Jr. as a psycho-mugger in the park — and he doesn’t appear in the British original. Bill Nagy (Fire Maidens from Outer Space), however, appears in both films.
The newsprint ad below tell us The Eternal Question was paired with another Ron Ormond release, Attack of the Flying Saucers.
Ron Ormond did a UFO film?
Attack of the Flying Saucers was an imported, West German science fiction short (17 minutes) known as Fliegende Untertassen, aka Flying Saucers (1954), shot at Filmaufbau Studios in Göttingen with direction co-credited to industrial filmmaker Georg Zauner and animator Friedrich Wollangk. Famed contactees Daniel Frey and Reinhold Schmidt appear in the film.
These two Ormond obscurities were paired in a triple feature with Fire Maidens from Outer Space by way of producer-distributor Robert L. Lippert. Ormond and Lippert collaborated over the years, especially on several westerns from 1948 to 1951 starring Lash LaRue (who worked on Ormond’s non-western, Please Don’t Touch Me There). Fire Maidens also features stock Sfx shots from Lippert’s own Rocketship X-M (read up on that production in our review of 1951’s Flight to Mars). But let’s not forget star Bill Nagy’s connection to The Eternal Question.
Outside of a new, English-language narration and dialog track created by Ron Ormond, the film remained the same. It’s also said the Ormonds planned to make their own UFO feature following the release of Attack of the Flying Saucers. Titled Crusade to New Horizons, it was to consist of “contact” stories told to Ron Ormond and feature insights from various UFOlogists. The feature-length film — which may or may not have incorporated footage from Attack of the Flying Saucers — was never made.
Ormond’s interest in otherworldly subjected led to his co-authoring a series of late ’50s books on the subjects of psychic phenomenon, Asian mysticism, hypnosis, and psychic surgery with his magician-mentor Ormond McGill. (Ron Ormond, born Vittorio Di Naro, derived his vaudevillian stage name, Rahn Ormond, in tribute to McGill.) Those “self help” books led to Ron working as the editor-in-chief for Flying Saucers From Other Worlds magazine. (By the mid-60s, Ron Ormond added television programming to his resume: as a producer of Roller Derby games for broadcast. His son, Tim, later a filmmaker in his own right, appeared as one of the Derbities in the child’s version of the games broadcast.)
Upon developing and undergoing medical treatment for bladder cancer in 1959, Ron and McGill traveled on an eight-month spiritual quest to the Far East that also took them into India and the Philippines. Those travels were documented in the photo journals Religious Mysteries of the Orient, Into the Strange Unknown, The Master Method of Hypnosis, The Art of Meditation, and The Magical Pendulum of the Orient. Also filming those travels, that footage — such as Filipinos ritually flagellating themselves — would be used in his later, ’60s films, such as Please Don’t Touch Me and The Girl from Tobacco Row.
That footage, shared in those films, also reappeared in Tim Ormond’s The Sacred Symbol (1984), a part documentary/part dramatic reenactment tale that examined, not only Christianity, but religions from around the world. Footage from Untamed Mistress (1959), which was actually footage shot-on-safari by a family friend, also appeared in the film.
It was after two, light-plan mishaps, with the second in 1970, that Ron Ormond dedicated his talents to spread the world of the Lord by producing a series of films with Southern Baptist pastor Estus Pirkle, the first of which was If Footmen Tire You, What Will Horses Do?. Ron’s final film before his May 1981 death — which was completed, in full, by Tim Ormond due to Ron’s failing health — was The Second Coming (1980).
Prior to the production of The Second Coming — a film mixed with science fiction, theology, special effects — Ron combined his extensive, past westerns experience with his later religious endeavors for the film Surrender at Navajo Canyon (1980). That promotional film was produced in conjunction with the ministry of Pete Rice to chronicle his efforts in ministering to the members of the Navajo Nation.
Tim spoke at length about the production of The Scared Symbol during a 2007 interview on the digitized pages of Mondo Stumpo:
“So from that point, the last Christian film I made [The Second Coming], which does not mean I’m not still a Christian, I am, I’ve just kind of gotten involved in other things. I still keep in touch with some of my other friends. But the last one I made was The Sacred Symbol, which was, in essence, when my dad went to the Orient. He shot a whole lot of footage of very unusual and strange things. Anything from fakirs to snake handlers to Buddhists to the flagellantes. Well, I had all this footage, but I was now making Christian films, so I thought, ‘What can I do with this strange footage?’
“So I wrote a script around the footage, and it was called The Sacred Symbol. And basically the storyline was, some people met at the Adventurer’s Club, and they discussed their guest speaker, John Harvey, who in real life was John Calvert, who was a famous worldwide magician and who was a friend of my dad’s back in Hollywood [when Ron, himself, was a vaudevillian magician]. And so, at the Adventurer’s Club, they discussed John’s travels, and he talks about, ‘I’ve been here and seen this, and I’ve been there and seen that, but I finally found something which amazed, even me, when I uncovered the sacred symbol.’ And then [John] started talking about Christ and such and such, and that led us into the finale of the movie, which was, ‘There’s all these various, different things and religions, but there’s the true path,’ and such.”
Our thanks to British film fans David McGillivary and Leowine/IMDb and the Telegoons.org website for their previous research regarding The Eternal Question in helping B&S About Movies chronicle this truly lost Ron Ormond film — in our quest to catalog his secular and Christian films — as there are no clips, trailers, or full streams of The Eternal Question to share.
You can learn more about the film’s British counterpart, Hands of Destiny, as well as television producer, writer and director Tony Young, with his career biography at Telegoons.org. Tony’s best-known production to American audiences is his final film, Penny Points to Paradise (1951), as result of it serving as the film debut of Peter Sellers.
You can pay-for-view stream Hands of Destiny from the BFI – The British Film Institute. There are no copies of Attack of the Flying Saucers or its German counterpart online.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
Untamed Mistress is of a time and place. It’s a film that’ll probably offend, since it’s basically a stag film, aka a nudie-cutie. Before Internet pornography — although this is not pornographic in the least — films like Untamed Mistress is how your dads and your dads’ dads got a peak at nudity, at least until the “Golden Age of Porn” broke thought in the early ’70s with the likes of Behind the Green Door, Deep Throat, and The Devil in Miss Jones.
However, the operative word here is “nudie-cutie,” and this is a Ron Ormond production, so whether it’s a (very) soft-core skin flick or a “jukebox musical” (such as his Kentucky Jubilee), Ron’s bringing along an inventive storyline to tie the pieces together. In this case: the pieces fit into a jungle/ape picture — with a damsel-in-distress tossed in for a feminist take on Tarzan.
In fact, Untamed Mistress — considered a horror film — treads pretty much the same ground as Ron’s Mesa of Lost Women (1963) — which is considered a sci-fi film. Only the latter was set in the desert and not a jungle, and has human-sized tarantulas and women with the abilities and instincts of spiders. This time, we have gorillas and a woman with the abilities and instincts of a gorilla — and she’s possibly “married” to a gorilla.
The film came together when Ron Ormond severed his partnership with producer-distributor J.N Houck, Jr., the Drive-In huckster-guru of Howco International Pictures (Night of Bloody Horror, Creature from Black Lake, Smokey and the Good Time Outlaws). Part of Ormond’s severance package was retaining the rights to the Sabu movie Law of the Jungle, aka The Black Panther, but he couldn’t use the image of Sabu. So, Ron and his wife, June Carr, concocted a storyline to recycle the footage. Additional footage was also cut into the film courtesy of a family friend: a wealthy doctor with an adventurous spirit who shot reels of his own African safari and donated it to the project.
The story concerns an injured and dying Indian guide (Bryon Keith, a white actor in brown make-up, cut in from that Sabu footage; he was Mayor Linseed for several Batman episodes) of two brothers (Allan Nixon, of Ormond’s Outlaw Women, 1952, as well as Mesa of Lost Women; the other the one-and-gone John Martin) on safari. The guide tells a tale, in flashback, that he was once a prince and that a jungle girl, the love of his life, ran off to live with a tribe of gorillas. One of the brothers is also romancing Velda (Jacqueline Fontaine, also of Ormond’s Outlaw Women), his own jungle girl. When she’s captured by the tribe, the brothers go to battle to rescue her. They come to discover an entire tribe of gorillas and their human-female brides — and a shocking secret of Velda’s.
Laugh at you will at the mismatched Sabu footage to the family-friend shot travelogue, mismatched to the backyard plastic jungle footage populated by mostly white actors in brown make-up — with lots of voiceovers — but the Sabu footage had naked, topless African women bouncing around, and nudity is nudity in the 1950s. Meanwhile Velda, when topless, is always conveniently obscured by jungle brush. Add in a few guys in gorilla suites, a cursed jewel, a flying shrunken head, a mythical white gorilla, along with Velda bending and spinning around in a tribal dance, and you have film that cleaned up at the rural drive-ins.
As much as Untamed Mistress is critically derided for its “mismatched footage,” the transitions aren’t that incompetent; this is a Ron Ormond production, after all, so it all works pretty well. Well enough for a film with a “provocative” angle that was grossly oversold, as the “nudity” here, is a joke. But in 1955, this was pretty racy stuff for a film . . . of a time and place.
The inversion of Tarzan is of interest here, as Allan Nixon, who played with the Washington Redskins (aka now The Washington Football Team) for time, turned to modeling in New York and scored a studio contract with MGM Studios. At one point, he was in contention as the replacement for Johnny Weissmuller in Tarzan, as well as a bungled studio contract with Republic Pictures, interested in casting him as a western star.
Sadly, after a draft-stint in WWII, followed by a bout with alcoholism and drunk and disorderly arrests, Nixon derailed his career. He continued acting in bit roles in TV series and B-movies until the early ’60s. By the early ’70s, he developed a new career as a writer (he had a journalistic degree) of several exploitative romance novels, as well as several novel-sequels to Shaft under the pen name of Don Romano. Allan Nixon died at the age of 79 in April 1995.
Nixon made the tabloids when his third wife, Velda May Paulsen, an ex-model, was arrested in January of 1958 when she attacked him with a steak knife following a domestic argument. The fight was the result of Nixon’s upset that Paulsen was still friendly with her ex-boyfriend — Burt Lancaster. She was killed later that year in an explosion at their apartment caused by a lit cigarette and a gas leak.
About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.
Also known as Cruel Swamp or Swamp Women but not Swamp Woman, this Roger Corman-directed movie has undercover police officer Lee Hampton get in with a gang of females who escape from jail and head out to the swamp — hey the title didn’t lie! — to find a hidden cache of diamonds.
This is the first film that Corman made with Lawrence, Bernard and David Wolner, who eventually bankrolled New World Pictures. They were the owners of New Orleans’ first drive-in theaters, so having movies of their own helped keep costs down.
Released on a double bill with Gunslinger, the bayou setting really helps make this movie better than it should be. It’s in The Fifty Worst Films of All Time (And How They Got That Way) by Harry Medved and Randy Lowell, but there are definitely way worse films than this one.
Every woman in this movie — Marie Windsor (the queen of the b’s who appeared in The Killing, The Day Mars Invaded Earth and 170 other movies), Beverly Garland (Gunslinger, It Conquered the World), Susan Cummings (The Street Is My Beat) and Jil Jarmyn (No Man’s Woman) — is the kind of girl who’d sooner punch you in the jaw than kiss you on the lips and that’s exactly why I love them all so much.