Black Dragons (1942)

MAY 28, 2008


Honestly, I can’t take another one of these movies. I can’t even tell them apart anymore. Even though Black Dragons has a spy plot (with lots of racist overtones – I wasn’t aware major newspapers referred to our enemies simply as “Japs”), it’s essentially yet another movie that takes place in a large house, features a butler, a horror icon (Lugosi here), a wise talking cop, and a dame who is there to see someone with ties to her uncle (or her uncle himself in some of them). Murders are largely off-screen, bodies disappear, people run in and out of a lot of rooms with swinging doors, etc. It’s the same crap I’ve watched a dozen times on this set.

The odd thing about the movie is that the synopsis gives away the film’s twist ending. It says it’s about a guy who is imprisoned after performing plastic surgery on six Japanese men who plan to impersonate six different US leaders. But none of that is really even mentioned in the film’s first 55 minutes or so, it’s only revealed in the final 10 minutes what exactly Lugosi was up to and why he was killing some dudes. It’d be like saying that The Usual Suspects is about a guy named Keyser Soze who fabricates a story to a detective while he awaits bail for his assumed alias of Verbal Kint.

Then again, the synopsis also mistakes Lugosi for Karloff, so I should have known better than to put any stock into it.

It’s also one of the lesser transfers on the set. An entire chunk of the film has white noise over it (it actually sounds like popcorn being popped at an alarmingly delicious rate), and certain reels have sections with what could only be described as electronic mud on the right side of the frame. Somewhere in the world there exists a man who considers this to be his favorite film, and it’s sad to think that he can’t get a decent copy.

That aside, the rest is the same as the others, so if you haven’t seen any of them (and judging from the lack of comments for these movies, you haven’t), there is some mild entertainment to be had from the story, particularly the scenes where Lugosi holds an imprisoned dude down and forces him to ward off visitors by telling them that he is fine and doesn’t need their assistance (Lugosi’s operation on his face left him monstrous). And the dame (Joan Barclay) is pretty cute, which makes it all the more puzzling why not only does she never kiss our hero, but she is also revealed to be an undercover cop in the film’s final act, an issue that is never brought up again or resolved. Why not have her onscreen more? You get eye candy AND resolution of your own generic subplots!

I only have about a dozen movies left on the Horror Classics set; I hope like hell none of them follow this story template. If so I may be forced to take drastic action (like, watch something else that day).

What say you?

1 comment:

  1. Of course a lot of these poverty row flicks used the same template, as the studios were just churning them out by the week--and without TV or VCRs or DVDs, I guess the audiences didn't mind or revolved enough for it not to matter.

    As to the "Japs" thing, I had the same shock recently watching a gift DVD set of the 1940s Batman serials. In one of the early ones a camera pans over a deserted "Asiantown" in Gotham, while the narrator intones enthusiastically, "After a WISE GOVERNMENT interred all the SHIFTY-EYED JAPS, Asiantown was a ghost town!"

    Makes Mickey Rooney's turn in Breakfast at Tiffany's look positively progressive.


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