The Devil Bat 1941
The best of all Lugosi's poverty row work. He has a few priceless scenes of sly humor, as when he expresses "grief" in public over his victims. The bat itself is also pretty great, since it is apparently worked with three strings, instead of just one, and it even has its own leitmotif.
The Invisible Ghost 1941
One of the least of Lugosi's poverty row efforts finds him seeing his presumably dead wife at the window, and then going on a blind murder spree in his mansion. Corpses turn up right and left but no one suspects Lugosi. Meanwhile, the gardener keeps the wife in the cellar because she's "not in her right mind," which might hurt Lugosi's feelings. Of course, none of this makes any sense, and as a child it was always sad when this confusing mess was on, as I loved Bela and longed to understand what was happening. Now of course, I realize there is no concievable way to understand. And what a relief it is.
The Ape Man 1943
Bela with some great facial hair, bad posture, and his sore throat "Ygor" voice from "Son of Frankenstein. There's a real annoying plot device of "the guy who wrote this screwy picture" peering in at all the action. The constant cut-aways to him are distracting as hell. Probably William "One Shot" Beaudine didn't much care. Still: Bela, a gorilla, and spinal fluid injections... sort of a poverty row remake of "Murders in the Rue Morgue."
Voodoo Man 1944
Bela with some great facial hair and good posture! Worlds better than "The Ape Man" and not because the early gas statiuon sequence recalls the work of Edward Hopper. There's George Zucco as a voodoo priest, and John Carradine seemingly determined to undermine the movie by overplaying his "idiot servant" role beyond all reason. The "zombies" are girls in white gowns who are okay after everything is over, so this is a completely murder-free movie. Bela's passing, however, is legitimately tragic, and the post-modern "author witnessing own story" element is cool, not annoying this time around. Four stars! "Ramboona Never Fails."
The Brute Man 1946
Rondo Hatton was a tragic story, a hollywood "bogeyman" used by the system because he didn't need make-up-- he was disfigured by acromelagy. This somberly sordid film seems to have be his autobiography crossed with some revenge-murder storyline. All in all, pretty distateful business, but since, as a child, I saw it about 30 times on UHF, I have no choice but to include it here as special tribute to the great Rondo.
The Face Behind the Mask 1941
Like the Brute Man, this film is all about rejection, and that makes it ideal fare for the young boy watching UHF TV instead of playing ball or chasing girls. As with Rondo, our hero is disfigured in an accident, becomes misanthropic, and tried to reform, alas to late, via the love of a blind girl. Unlike the Brute Man though, this is a true b-movie classic: touching, haunting, quick-moving. Peter Lorre delivers a bracingly detailed performance, both extremely creepy and extremely human. Not to be missed, though impossible to find.
Spider Baby 1964 (but could be 1946)
The great Lon Chaney Jr.'s final boozestruck farewell to his beloved children. It's a great Addam's family-esque creeper-rama: sexy without being vulgar, scary without being gruesome, hilarious without being condescending to its genre. Viva Jack Hill!