Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Vampira's Pre-SHOCK! Programming, 1954-55

How and why did distinctly non-horror action-suspense melodramas get included in the SHOCK! syndicated movie package? I raised this question in a recent post on ENEMY AGENT for this viewing project, and my search for an explanation continues. One hunch that I had was to search for a pre-SHOCK! precedent, and the one that jumps most immediately to mind is the work of Vampira over KABC-Channel 7 from 1954-55. (A few weeks back, Mirek put up a post on Vampira and her horror-hosting.) I've often heard that Vampira's offerings were more murder-mystery than horror, so I dug around a little bit to see if she included any spy movies that might have been the precursor to the Screen Gems decision to include such titles in the SHOCK! collection.

Now, I didn't find any mention of ENEMY AGENT-kinds of thrillers, but I was surprised by some of the other movies that she used for her show. I haven't seen all of them, but many are favorites of mine (though I don't think I would call all of them "good" movies, really). All in all, I found this to be a solid and entertaining line-up that I would love to be able to see... most seem to be in the public domain, so maybe some history-minded contemporary public-access TV horror host can replicate Vampira's schedule. Otherwise, the next best thing that I can hope for is that perhaps someone can start a "Vampira Viewing Project Blog."

Friday Night at 11:00 p.m.

04/30/1954 "Dig Me Later, Vampira" (Preview Show)

Saturday Nights/Sunday Mornings at Midnight

05/01/1954 THE CHARGE IS MURDER. I’m not sure about this one, but one possibility is that it is the English-dubbed-for-TV version of the Italian thriller ATTO DI ACCUSA (1950): A wealthy lawyer discovers his wife has been having an affair; in revenge, the lawyer frames his wife’s lover by murdering the landlord of their love-nest apartment.

05/08/1954 THE FACE OF MARBLE (1946, Monogram). A mad scientist trying to reanimate the dead clashes with his housekeeper’s voodoo practices.

05/15/1954 REVENGE OF ZOMBIES (1943, Monogram). A mad scientist in the Cambodian jungle creates an unstoppable zombie army for the Nazi war effort.

05/22/1954 FOG ISLAND (1945, PRC). The search for hidden treasure in a mansion on a remote island becomes an exercise in murderous revenge.

Saturday Nights at 11:00 p.m.

05/29/1954 CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS (1948, Apollo). British film made in France about reincarnated lovers.

06/05/1954 Not listed, but probably WHITE ZOMBIE (1932, Halperin Productions). A woman becomes the zombie slave of a cruel voodoo practitioner.

06/12/1954 DEVIL BAT’S DAUGHTER (1946, PRC). The daughter of an accused mad scientist tries to uncover the truth about her dad’s experiments and nearly goes crazy in the process.

06/19/1954 THE FLYING SERPENT (1946, PRC). Murderous archaeologist commands a primordial Aztec god-monster to kill his enemies.

06/26/1954 THE MASK OF DIJON (1946, PRC). A mad magician discovers that he has the power to hypnotize and uses it bring death to his enemies.

07/03/1954 THE STRANGE MR. GREGORY (1946, PRC). A villainous magician fakes his death in order to frame his romantic rival.

07/10/1954 THE MAN WITH TWO LIVES (1942, Monogram) A man brought back to life by a mad scientist finds his body taken over by the soul of an executed gangster.

07/17/1954 CORRIDOR OF MIRRORS. See 05/29/1954

07/24/1954 FEAR (1946, Monogram) An impoverished and desperate student agrees to murder a loan shark for cash.

07/31/1954 ROGUE’S TAVERN (1936, Mercury Pictures Corporation). Shady guests at a remote inn are killed by a vicious dog prowling the grounds. Or are they?

08/07/1954 DANGEROUS INTRUDER (1945, PRC) A hitchhiking out-of-work actress is struck by a car; when the driver’s wife later turns up dead, the actress searches for the killer.

08/14/1954 MYSTERY OF THE 13th GUEST (1943, Monogram). A masked killer murders people one-by-one in an old dark house.

08/21/1954 MIDNIGHT LIMITED (1940, Monogram). The Phantom Robber plunders and murders passengers on a luxury train; a detective and his pretty assistant go undercover to catch him.

08/28/1954 BLUEBEARD (1944, PRC). A puppeteer in 19th-century Paris is a serial killer.

09/04/1954 MISSING LADY (1946, Monogram). An entry in Monogram’s “The Shadow” series. Lamont Cranston is accused of stealing a jade statue and murdering the witnesses.

09/11/1954 MURDER BY INVITATION (1941, Monogram) The scheming relatives of a rich old woman are gathered at her mansion for the weekend to decide the terms of the inheritance and are bumped off one at a time.

09/18/1954 RED DRAGON (1945, Monogram) Charlie Chan in Mexico City investigates three murders and the theft of some atomic secrets.

09/25/1954 THE MISSING HEIRESS. It’s not clear, but I think that this might be a British film called DR. MORELLE: THE CASE OF THE MISSING HEIRESS (1949, Hammer) ; it's a movie about a sleuthing hypnotist searching for clues to young woman who stands to inherit a pile of money who has disappeared from her family’s mansion.

10/02/1954 THE MISSING CORPSE (1945, PRC). A comedy-mystery about a newspaper publisher who opens the trunk of his car to find the dead body of his professional rival.

10/09/1954 THE FATAL HOUR (1940, Monogram). Mr. Wong is on the case when police captain Street’s best friend is murdered at the San Francisco docks by smugglers.

10/16/1954 PHANTOM KILLER (1942, Monogram). A city district-attorney is convinced that a celebrated deaf-mute philanthropist is responsible for several murders despite eyewitness accounts to the contrary.

10/23/1954 THE SHADOW RETURNS (1946, Monogram). Lamont Cranston unravels a case involving a secret laboratory, fake jewels, and murder.

10/30/1954 KING OF THE ZOMBIES (1941, Monogram). A Navy officer's plane goes down in a storm and crash lands on a Caribbean island where a voodoo master works to create zombies for a dangerous unnamed foreign power.

11/06/1954 DOOMED TO DIE (1940, Monogram). Mr. Wong and a feisty lady reporter look into the slaying of a shipping tycoon.

11/13/1954 HOUSE OF MYSTERY (1934, Monogram). A killer ape prowls around an old dark house in seeming fulfillment of a curse.

11/20/1954 MY BROTHER’S KEEPER (1948, Gainsborough Pictures). British film about a dangerous escaped criminal handcuffed to a young small-time crook who are being hunted by police and a newly-married newspaper reporter and wife.

11/27/1954 DEAR MURDER (1947, Gainsborough Pictures). A business man plots to kill his wife’s lovers in this British-made thriller.

12/04/1954 CASTLES OF DOOM. I don’t know what this could be, but the English-language, unauthorized re-cut roadshow version of VAMPYR. DER TRAUM DES ALLAN GREY (1932) was called THE CASTLE OF DOOM (1934). I wonder…?

12/11/1954 THE CHARGE IS MURDER. See 05/01/1954

12/18/1954 RETURN OF THE APE MAN (1944, Monogram). A mad scientist thaws out a prehistoric hominid and brings him back to life after giving him the brain of his assistant.

12/25/1954 MAN WITH THE GRAY GLOVE. Possibly the 1953 dubbed-for-American-TV version of the Italian musical-mystery L’UOMO DAL GUANTO GRIGIO (1948) about the theft of a Renaissance painting and a psycho killer in Rome.

01/01/1955 APOLOGY FOR MURDER (1945, Sigmund Neufeld Productions). A reporter gets tangled up with a scheming femme fatale who wants him to murder her husband, DOUBLE INDEMNITY-style.

01/08/1955 DECOY (1946, Bernhardt-Brandt Productions). A sap gets suckered into helping a femme fatale bring her executed bank-robbing boyfriend back from the dead in order to locate his missing $400,000 in loot.

01/15/1955 MURDER IS MY BUSINESS (1946, PRC). One of PRC’s “Michael Shayne” private eye mystery movies involving blackmail, robbery, and murder surrounding a wealthy woman and her two grown stepchildren.

01/22/1955 PHANTOM OF 42nd STREET (1945, PRC) A drama critic tries to solve the murder of a Broadway actor who was killed on stage.

01/29/1955 CASE OF THE GUARDIAN ANGEL. Perhaps this is the British film THE ADVENTURES OF P.C. 49: INVESTIGATING THE CASE OF THE GUARDIAN ANGEL (1949, Hammer), wherein a London bobby goes undercover to break up a vicious gang of truck hijackers dealing in stolen booze and cigarettes.

02/05/1955 LADY CHASER (1946, PRC). The fiancé of a woman accused of poisoning her wealthy uncle tries to prove her innocence and stumbles onto a blackmail plot.

02/12/1955 KILLER AT LARGE (1947, PRC). Two reporters tackle an embezzling ring with powerful connections.

02/19/1955 SHE SHALL HAVE MURDER (1950, Derrick De Marnay Productions) UK-made movie about a mystery-writing law clerk who suspects that the person responsible for the death of a client might be one of her office co-workers.

02/26/1955 THE LADY CONFESSES (1945, PRC) A woman discovers that her fiancé’s wife isn’t dead after all and winds up getting mixed up with gangsters.

Saturday Night at 10:30p.m.

03/05/1955 LARCENY IN HER HEART (1946, PRC) Another "Michael Shayne" movie , this one involving the search for the missing stepdaughter of a popular city political reformer.

03/12/1955 GLASS ALIBI (1946, W. Lee Wilder Productions). An unscrupulous reporter and his girlfriend plot to murder his rich wife.

03/19/1955 DETOUR (1945, PRC). A hapless cross-country hitchhiker finds himself ensnared in two deaths and a dangerous femme fatale.

03/26/1955 STRANGLER OF THE SWAMP (1946, PRC). Atmospheric chiller about the ghost of hanged ferryman terrorizing a small town in search of revenge.

04/02/1955 WOMAN WHO CAME BACK (1945, Republic). A young woman descended from a witch-hunting judge returns to her family’s hometown and is haunted by the idea that a witch’s ghost is trying to destroy her.

This list of titles was originally compiled by the late Dick Nitelinger Golembiewski from his search of The Los Angeles Times, The Los Angeles Examiner, The Los Angeles Daily News, and the L.A. edition of TV Guide for his now-defunct (but much-recommended) "Milwaukee TV Horror Hosts" website. I accessed it via the Internet Archive's "Wayback Machine." Using Nitelinger's list, I have provided the films' release dates, production company information, and brief synopses. A few of the films I could only guess at--- I welcome any corrections, clarifications, hunches, and insights to this list.


Mirek said...

More mysteries to be solved regarding some of those obscure titles! Someone could indeed duplicate a Vampira show with this list of mostly PD titles. Perhaps Elvira herself, though my impression is that Vampira was far more outre and creepy than Elvira.

The Creeping Bride said...

I was especially taken by the film noir titles in her programming.

I haven't done much research at all on Vampira or her show, but I think I will look into it more.

The Creeping Bride said...

Please see my post for November 25 for some corrections, confirmations, and additions to this list of movies shown.

Will Errickson said...

Glorious photos! Love the one with her head shaved, as well as spooking that little girl...