Halloween Harvest 2012 --- Part One --- Claude Rains' Penny Dreadfuls
The bane of certain serious actors was horror movies, even as others surrendered to them. I recall somewhere Basil Rathbone labeling his Son Of Frankenstein a "penny dreadful," and am further told he ignored it in memoirs. According to David Skal's fine Claude Rains bio, the actor turned down Son's lead before Rathbone accepted. Were horror pics indeed a scourge to players we now revere for having appeared in them? More to the point, would there be a Claude Rains book or addictive Basil Rathbone webpage had these two not become so associated with monster shows? I've read with much amusement the story of boys who saw shooting of 1963's The Comedy Of Terrors and met an inhospitable Rathbone, who fairly blanched at the sight of a Famous Monsters magazine they'd brought along. Vincent Price could groove with horror boomers and indulge their childish interest, but such for Rathbone was equivalent to garlic and a crucifix to vampires, his association with the genre strictly one maintained for cash (and little of that).
|1933 Ad for The Invisible Man's Broadway Opening|
|Here's a 1933 Ad That Allows a Glimpse of Claude Rains As|
a Visible Man
Had Rains by this time been shown a copy of Forry Ackerman's infamous rag, that celebration of all things abhorrent to maturity and sober reflection on society's "blind alleys"? Surely one or two misguided kids nearby Claude's
Universal's Blu-Rains-fall of monster classics naturally highlight Karloff and Lugosi for iconic input to the brand, but there's as much of Claude here as either of them, him arguably the titan what bestrides this initial slate of High-Def shockers. In fact, his three were among first of the eight I watched, my regard for Rains having only grown since mature discovery of great work he did in things other than horror. The Invisible Man was sold less as a chiller than a trick sensation, sort of latter-day George Mêliés, but way more sophisticated. I watched Rains this time closer than ever (and that's close as in every fiber, thanks to miraculous Uni clean-up), there being every evidence that he studied, or was at least inspired, by Lon Chaney's opera Phantom perf of eight years earlier. That seminal work had to have left deep impression on players who'd later do masked roles and rely on gesturing to put across drama. What Rains achieves with gloved hands alone was surely highlight of a marvel enactment, this in addition to his mellifluous voice.
Could you blame us for associating Rains with horror movies? His presence in them went beyond The Invisible Man, The Wolf Man, and 1943's Phantom Of The Opera. There was also, prominently in the "Shock!" package, The Mystery Of Edwin Drood, which played TV by force of station contract as often as higher-profile horrors, a category to which a drooping Drood never properly belonged in any case. Another with Rains did not even arrive to television until Screen Gems' lease on Universal chillers expired and MCA re-grouped the features in 1971 (a group of 77 which included not only pre-48 titles, but assorted weirdies from the 50's). This was The Man Who Reclaimed His Head (1934), certainly a title with horrific potential, but not otherwise a fit within the genre. (As regards the "Special Rubber Matinee" at left, wonder how many "kiddies" raided Dad's bedroom drawers to get the "one pound" needed for admission)
|The Wolf Man Hits Chicago, with Homemade Art and an "Adults Only" Warning.|
Note Too That Bela Lugosi Gets Sole Billing Above The Title
|Phantom Gets Its First Chicago Run, With|
a Universal "B" Musical To Share The Ride
Exploitation's siren call would have put Lon Chaney, Jr. in his father's immortal role for Universal's 1943 re-go at Phantom Of The Opera, but this was not to be a mere shock-serving to kids and sub-billing. It was instead a full-out assault on a carriage trade normally disdainful of what they considered genre foolishness. To get round such prejudice, this Phantom had to be lush and lovely, its emphasis not on fiends and fright, but elegant trappings and music (lots). Toward that end would come top-billed Nelson Eddy from prestige of MGM operetta casting, also Technicolor unknown to thrill subjects other that
Still, it was Rains back at chilling, and he was effective as ever at it, his voice an instrument more powerful than shriek/baritone enacted by Foster/Eddy. It was essentially The Invisible Man again, that a likeliest reason for Universal's casting of him, and I'd like to think he got a largest so-far payday for Phantom'ing. What Rains' Invisible Man did for bandages, this would do for a mask, that last a beauteous creation (I want one for Halloween!) that CL was said to have fussed endlessly over. We do see more of his face behind that mask than was revealed of Chaney's, probably the reason why this Phantom was not nearly so disfigured as in the '25 issue. All kinds of reasons have been tendered for restraint applied to Rains' Phantom make-up, but I'd aver a primary one was simply the actor wanting to leave an expressive mouth and jaw exposed to confirm it was truly him darting in and out of the overproduced show's second half.