Release Date: August 3rd, 1932 (New York City premiere)
Directed by: Michael Curtiz
Written by: Robert Tasker, Earl Baldwin
Based on: Terror, 1928 play by Howard W. Comstock, Allen C. Miller
Music by: Leo F. Forbstein, Bernard Kaun
Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Lee Tracy, Preston Foster
First National Pictures, 76 Minutes
“Were the murdered women… attacked?” – Dr. Haines, Academy of Surgical Research
I don’t know if this is the first horror/comedy ever made but it’s gotta be pretty close. However, it also blends together several genres in what’s a really unique experience for a motion picture from 1932.
This is directed by Michael Curtiz, who would go on to direct several film-noir pictures, as well as big budget swashbuckling blockbusters starring the legendary Errol Flynn. Curtiz was a pretty versatile and now celebrated director but this may be his most unusual film.
So the version of this that I watched was actually the one restored by George Lucas’ people, which was also in Technicolor, as opposed to the traditional black and white.
However, I really liked the Technicolor work in this film and it made it feel gritty and real and also somewhat haunting and majestic. The use of green accents enhanced it in a unique way and while I typically prefer to see films, as they were intended, this almost makes a good argument for the use of colorization just by how it was employed here.
I thought that the film was amusing, I liked the comedy and it still works for those few of us that still enjoy pictures from this era.
I also enjoyed the performances by Lionel Atwill, a guy that was featured in a slew of classic Universal Monsters films, as well as Fay Wray, who will always be remembered for her iconic part in the original King Kong.
While this is sort of your typical mad scientist tale, it’s genre bending narrative comes across as fresh and unique when compared to similar movies of the time.