After the death of many brides in their weddings and disappearance of their corpses, the snoopy journalist Patricia Hunter notes that all of them were wearing an orchid in their breasts. She finds that the hybridization of the orchid was made by Dr. Lorenz, and she decides to interview him about the flowers. She hitchhikes on the road with Dr. Foster and they are hosted by Dr. Lorenz in his isolated house. Dr. Lorenz is indeed a mad scientist that sleeps with his wife in coffins, and with the assistance of a dwarf and his strong retarded brother, extract gland fluids from the neck of the abducted virgins to keep his elder wife young.
Directed by: Wallace Fox
. Starring: Bela Lugosi
, Luana Walters
, Tristram Coffin
, Elizabeth Russell
, Minerva Urecal
, Angelo Rossitto
, Joan Barclay
, Kenneth Harlan
, Gwen Kenyon
, Vince Barnett
, Frank Moran
, George Eldredge
, Pat Costello
This is one of the best Monogram quickies because it is a fast paced story well told full of creepy and eerie weirdness. It is well suited to late night watching for lovers of the bizarre.
Bela Lugosi gives a good performance as Dr. Lorenz, a suave, devoted husband to his 'Countess' wife, while at the same time moonlighting as a body snatcher of brides who suddenly die at the altar (due to his poisoned orchids, of course). He extracts glandular fluid from them to inject into his wife's body to keep her young and beautiful (as we find out, she is really in her 80s). He stores the bodies for future use in a morgue in his basement.
There is much that gives the film its creepy, eerie quality. First, there is his bizarre 'family' attending him: delightfully ugly Minerva Urecal as his housekeeper Fagah, with her two sons the dwarf henchman Toby (played by Angelo Rossito) and Angel (Frank Moran), a retarded necrophiliac hunchback. Then further menace and atmosphere are added by heavy rain and cracks of lighting instead of music, by dark shadows and lots of hidden passageways, and in the pleasure Lorenz and his wife take by sleeping in coffins. When suspenseful and tension building music is used, the staccato violin theme is catchy and effective. You can hear this same music used in other films as well, such as Grand National Film's' 'Rollin Plains' (1938) with Tex Ritter.
The action of the story is equal to the 'female reporter hot on the trail' B pictures of Universal or other major studios. Luana Walters plays the reporter Patricia Hunter, who discovers the poisoned orchid clue to the murders. Naturally, the hybrid orchid was developed by Dr. Lorenz himself, so she hitch hikes to his spooky mansion on the crest of a dark and forbidding mountain with Dr. Foster (played by Tristam Coffin) to interview him. The weather prevents them from leaving, so they must stay overnight in the spooky house and become victims to the mad characters' menace. Eerieness follows as Patricia passes through secret doorways and passages, stalked by the hunchback, and discovers the dead bodies. Hidden in the dark basement she witnesses Lorenz kill Angel bare handed.
Finally, after returning to her newspaper office, a plot is enacted to stage a fake wedding to trap Lorenz. He foils it, kidnapping Patricia to make her the next 'donor' for his wife's youth serum. Dr. Foster and the police arrive just in time to rescue her, although Fagah has already exacted her revenge on Lorenz. And all of this is done in little more than 60 minutes (with no commercials)!
Angelo Rositto was a lead player in the amazing Tod Browning film 'Freaks' (1932), and is also recognizable in 'Babes in Toyland' (1934), Samuel Fuller's 'The Baron of Arizona' (1950), as a regular in TV's 'Baretta' (1975) and in 'Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome' (1985). Both Frank Moran and Minerva Urecal rejoin Bela's housekeeping family in 'Ghosts on the Loose' (1943) with the Bowery Boys. Luana Walters can be seen as the female lead in the serial 'Drums of Fu Manchu' (1940), as well as the 'Prairie Flower' in many Monogram westerns. Tristam Coffin, with over 232 movie and TV credits, had a chameleon character, voice and personality that made him equally believable as either hero or villain. He's easily recognizable in either role from his many western TV appearances of the 50s, and in the serials 'Holt of the Secret Service' (1941), 'Spy Smasher' (1942), 'Perils of Nyoka' (1942), 'KIng of the Rocket Men' (1949) or 'Radar Patrol Vs. Sky King' (1949).
As for Bela Lugosi, we are always drawn to him as if we had been hypnotized by his eyes and hand gestures the first time we saw 'Dracula' (1931) and 'White Zombie' (1932). Too many of his films don't feature him enough in terms of screen time, as this one doesn't; but it moves along in such a fast and interesting way that this is a minor drawback.
This one deserves at least a 5. It's definitely good for late night viewing.
NOTE: In 'The Invisible Ghost' (1941) the story completely revolves around Bela as the lead character in which he is not even aware of his own dual personality. While much slower in pacing than this film, he dominates the movie both in terms of screen time and character. Also noteworthy is his amazing turn as Ygor in 'The Son of Frankenstein' (1939), definitely one of his performances for the ages.
Review by John W Chance from the Internet Movie Database.