Friday, March 30, 2012

Black Dragons

Black Dragons (1942)

So this is a boring and utterly demoralizing movie about a group of well-to-do dudes who get together to plan how they're gonna sabotage the war effort. One night after they've been partying, a mysterious doctor (Bela Lugosi - not Boris Karloff as the case promised) shows up and starts murdering them one by one. That goes on for about an hour, leading up to the big expoisition scene right at the end.

I'm going to assume you won't mind me spoiling the ending for you (I will add that the movie is sort of less demoralizing when you sort of know what's going on) and go right for it. Bela Lugosi's character is a renowned plastic surgeon working for the Nazis and the well-to-do saboteurs are actually Japanese spies in disguise. After assuming the faces and identities of a bunch of business men (and presumably learning to speak without comically racist accents), they imprisoned Dr. Lugosi so that he wouldn't tell the world about what they'd done. Anyway, he escapes and comes back to kill them or whatever.

So Lugosi's character is almost the hero - he stops the disguised spies from completely sabotaging the war - but he's also a Nazi... I'm not entirely sure how to feel about this. They throw in the niece of one of the businessmen (Joan Barclay) - who turns out to be an American spy - and a young FBI guy (Clayton Moore) to give the viewer some less conflicting heroes, but it's still sort of hard to tell whether Lugosi is villain, heor or victim. That's pretty damn sophisticated for a 1940s genre picture.

That being said, the writing and editing rendered the film nigh incomprehensible, and the acting was so atrocious I didn't even want to follow what was going on. Even Lugosi looked sort of embarrassed to be there, and I can't rightly blame him. He doesn't do a whole helluva lot except sneak around, popping up everywhere as if he were magic. Which I suppose he kinda is.

But really the only creepy thing in the movie is the female lead who spends nearly half her screen time hitting on Lugosi, who pretty much tells her to fuck off several time to no avail. I'm sure that was supposed to be her doing spy stuff but she just came off as some kind of weird gold digger.

Long story short, there is pretty much nothing going for this movie and I can think of no reason to watch it other than it's there.


Directed by: William Nigh (the science guy?).  Written by: Harvey Gates based on a story by Robert Kehoe.  Starring: Bela Lugosi, Joan Barclay, Clayton Moore, George Pembroke, Robert Frazer, Edward Peil Sr., Robert Fiske, Irving Mitchell

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