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The Vampire Bat  /  Almost Married

Almost Married
March 6, 2017 - 7:30 pm
head of preservation Scott MacQueen, author James Curtis.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute

Dracula — Original Trailer  (1931)

35mm, b/w, 2 min.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute

Frankenstein 1931 — Reissue Trailer  (1938)

35mm, b/w, 1 min.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute

The Old Dark House — Original Trailer  (1932)

Frankenstein is the original 1931 trailer bracketed by “It's Back!” wraparounds for the 1938 reissue.  Like many early trailers it is comprised of outtakes revealing angles and trims not used in the feature.  Dracula is the unadorned original trailer and includes variant line readings and a fragment of Edward Van Sloan's screen test.  The Old Dark House trailer features stills and art cards but no footage.  All three films were immediate inspiration for The Vampire Bat (1933).  —Scott MacQueen

35mm, b/w, 1 min.  Restored from 35mm nitrate prints.  Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound, DJ Audio, Inc.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by The Packard Humanities Institute

The Vampire Bat  (1933)

Everybody loves Dr. von Niemann (Lionel Atwill), clueless that he is using a cover story of medieval vampirism to murder the proletariat of Kleines Schloss and gleefully feed their blood to the artificial being he has created (it looks suspiciously like a loofa sponge oxygenating in an aquarium).

Fiercely independent producer Phil Goldstone, former production head at Tiffany, organized Majestic Pictures with Herman Gluckman in the spring of 1932 with an ambitious slate of 20 productions.  Goldstone promised exhibitors substantial budgets and he front-loaded his pictures with name talent like Pat O'Brien, Thelma Todd, Paul Lukas and Leila Hyams.  A Carl Laemmle crony, Goldstone called in his chits at Universal where he had set up White Zombie (1932) for the Halperin Brothers, financed indie productions for Ken Maynard and Lou Ostrow, and funneled considerable work to Laemmle's lab from the Independent Motion Pictures Producer's Association.  In doing so he guaranteed Majestic production facilities unknown on Poverty Row.

Goldstone did not miss a beat cashing in on the current fad for spooky movies, casting his actors from current horror hits: leading man Melvyn Douglas (The Old Dark House), moronic Dwight Frye (Frankenstein and Dracula), zaftig comedian Maude Eburne (The Bat Whispers), wooden soldier Robert Frazer (White Zombie), right down to bit player Rita Carlisle reprising her whining, bedridden invalid from Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Goldstone's real coup was acquiring the Doctor X thrill team of Lionel Atwill and Fay Wray, already teamed again in the just-completed Mystery of the Wax Museum (which The Vampire Bat would beat into release by one month).

With this travelling circus of horrors traipsing through cast-off sets from The Old Dark House and Frankenstein, plus a day trip to Bronson Canyon, The Vampire Bat plays like a midnight matinee from the old Shock Theater TV package.  It's foolish fun, mercifully brief and probably the best-remembered film from the prolific Frank Strayer, auteur of umpteen “Blondie” movies for Columbia.  UCLA's restoration recreates the sensational Gustav Brock color sequence, unacknowledged and unseen since first run.  —Scott MacQueen

35mm, b/w & color, 63 min.  Director: Frank Strayer.  Production: Majestic Pictures Corp.  Distribution: Capital Film Exchange.  Produced by: Phil Goldstone.  Screenwriter: Edward T. Lowe, Jr.  Cinematography: Ira Morgan.  Art Director: Daniel Hall.  Hand colored sequence: Gustav Brock.  Cast: Lionel Atwill, Fay Wray, Melvyn Douglas, Maude Eburne, George E. Stone.

Restored from a 35mm composite acetate fine grain master and a 35mm nitrate print.  Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, West Wing Studios, Inc., Fotokem, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound, DJ Audio, Inc.  Special thanks to: Stanton Rutledge, Bill Broderson, Andrew Oran.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive with funding provided by Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Almost Married  (1932)

With the firing squad at the ready and the Bolsheviks at her heels, Anita Mellikovna (Violet Heming) is given safe passage out of Moscow by embassy attaché Deene Maxwell (Ralph Bellamy).  Deene weds Anita, unaware that she is still legally the wife of Louis Capristi (Alexander Kirkland), an incarcerated madman.  When Capristi learns of the marriage, he escapes and makes his way to London where he turns the newlyweds' heaven into a living hell.

When Fox signed celebrated production designer William Cameron Menzies in 1931 with a promise to direct, their distrust of his dramatic instincts caused the studio to shadow him with a co-director.  As originally fashioned and previewed, Almost Married had been Menzies' alone.  It was a full-blooded horror movie, much to the chagrin of the Production Code.  Rewrites were ordered following a desultory preview and Marcel Varnel was brought in to direct retakes.  New bookends were appended and the gruesome business was softened.  The rejiggered film clocked in at under an hour.

The surgery was successful but the patient died.  Fox dumped it on a double bill in Brooklyn where it sank without a trace.  Menzies' final directing fling at Fox was the delightful and stylish Chandu the Magician (1932), this time teamed with Varnel from the outset.  Subsequently he returned to production design.  His occasional tenancy in the director's chair thereafter confirmed the strength of his artistic eye and the limitations of his dramatic gifts.  Varnel, after his final film for Fox, the charmingly eccentric Infernal Machine (1932), (also on view in this Festival), relocated to England where he flourished as a specialist in comedy.  —Scott MacQueen

35mm, b/w, 51 min.  Directed by William Cameron Menzies, Marcel Varnel.  Production: Fox Film Corporation.  Distribution: Fox Film Corporation.  Based on the story “The Devil's Triangle” by Andrew Soutar.  Screenwriters: Wallace Smith, Guy Bolton.  Cinematography: John Mescall, George Schneiderman.  Art Director: Gordon Wiles.  Music: George Lipshultz.  With: Violet Heming, Ralph Bellamy, Alexander Kirkland, Allan Dinehart, Herbert Mundin.

Restored from a 35mm nitrate print and the 35mm Italian nitrate dupe negative.  Laboratory services by YCM Labs, Audio Mechanics, DJ Audio, Inc., Pacific Title & Art Studio.  Special thanks to: The Academy Film Archive, Schawn Belston, Caitlin Robertson, Victoria Stevenson.