There Wouldn’t Be Any Difficulty in Finding a King: The Secret of Chimneys

Day 29) Five, Six, Pick Up Sticks: Sticks symbolize Power, Strength, or Judicial decisions. Choose a book that revolves around a powerful Ruler or Ruling.

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The Secret of Chimneys (Superintendent Battle #1) by Agatha Christie

I started reading Agatha Christie when my grandma gave me an anthology called Murder at the Manor, which had the books The Seven Dial Mysteries, Ordeal by Innocence, and Crooked House. I thought they were amazing novels and continued to read her books, mostly out of order.

I’m not sure how I was introduced to The Secret of Chimneys. I just remember a few years ago I found it at the library and wanted to check it out but couldn’t.

I immediately requested it, waiting until a copy came in. I started a few pages, but couldn’t stop reading and completely devoured the entire thing.

I thought it was incredible! It is a great mystery, fantastic adventure story, and just full of wit and witticism.

This counts double for this place on the list as the book not only centers on trying to find the next King of a Eastern European country but was written by the Queen of crime.

This book is one of her earlier novels, being the fifth mystery she has ever penned.

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So our tale of intrigue begins in Zimbabwe. Anthony Cade is thirty-two years old, handsome, well educated and traveled; and currently working as a tour guide. He runs into his old friend Jimmy McGrath, who needs help with something.

Before Jimmy can tell him the job, he first gives Anthony a history lesson. The Eastern European country Herzoslovakia has recently had some real civil unrest. King Nicholas IV married a music hall performer, and called her some outrageous name, and later after the marriage crowned her as Queen Varaga. The two were later assassinated and the prime minister, Count Stylpitch, left to France.

I’m getting out of here

Well one day, Jimmy was in Paris on one of his get-rich-quick schemes and saw some French toughs beating up a gentleman. Jimmy got involved and beat them up and the gentleman thanked him taking his name and going on his way.

Later Jimmy was contacted by the man and it turned out to be Count Stylpitch. Count Stylpitch has recently passed away and Jimmy was shocked when he received a package from the man. In the package is Count Stylpitch’s memoirs and a note that if they are delivered on or before October 13, then he will be given £1000. Jimmy unfortunately already has plans in a gold mine and needs someone else to do the job, promising to share £250 with Anthony if he will do it. Anthony agrees.

There isn’t time to change passage name or anything like that, so Anthony will just use Jimmy’s tickets. However, that’s not the only thing Jimmy needs him to do. One time when Jimmy was in Uganda and he saved a Herzoslovakian, strangely called Dutch Pedro. When he died from fever a few weeks later, he gave Jimmy “a gold mine” in papers. When Jimmy checked them out they were love letters from a Mrs. Virginia Revel.

Jimmy was disgusted at this idea of “gold mine”, blackmail and wants to return the items. There is no address on them and Jimmy had no plans or money to head to England, but with this free trip it seems like the best time.

Meanwhile in England, the death of Count Stylpitch has created a black hole in the government. George Lomax is trying to broker a deal with a British oil company and Prince Michael Obolovitch, contender for the Herzoslovakian throne. He wants to use the old historic Chimneys as the perfect meeting place, twisting Lord Caterham’s arm as he wants nothing to do with it.

George is worried about the memoirs as to what might come out, especially the disappearance of the Herzoslovakian treasures. He wants to get his hand at those remembrances and plans to use the feminine persuasion. He has just the right person in mind as well: widow to the Herzoslovakian ambassador so she knows the affairs, charming, intelligent: his cousin is perfect. His cousin Virginia Revel.

George returns home to complete the errand, but his lovesick assistant, Bill Eversleigh, manipulates his way into going to see the woman of his dreams, Virginia. Virginia agrees to go to a meeting with George, Bill also declaring his love for her; but Virginia isn’t interested.

George sends Bill to find out when the ship Granarth Castle is due to arrive. Unfortunately for George, Bill doesn’t pronounce Granarth correctly, and the worker thinks he says Carnfrae Castle instead, which is due next Thursday. Anthony, however, had arrived the previous day. Like they say, you can’t plan for everything.

Anthony has arrived in England under the name Jimmy McGrath and when he arrives at the Blitz Hotel, as per instructions, he is approached by a Herzoslovakian who wants the memoirs, Baron Lolopretjzyl. He wants to protect Prince Obolovitch from any bad press and is willing to pay £2000. When Anthony refuses, Baron Lolopretjzyl promises he will try another way.

Not good

Anthony is on his guard and decides as he has a week to take the work to the printer he will try and deliver the Revel papers instead. There are many Revels, (and she is under her husband’s name even though she is a widow), but he happens to luck onto her picture and discover which one she is.

Before he can journey to her, he is attacked by an Eastern European, a member of the Red Hand and after the memoir. He tries to pull  gun on him, but Anthony Cade is not a pushover, he takes him down lickety-split.

Later he is attacked by an Italian waiter, Giuseppe. He manages to stop Giuseppe from harming him, but Giuseppe takes off with the Revel letters.

Not good

Anthony has only been here a day and has already been approached/attacked by three people. What will the next day hold?

The next day Virginia Revel is approached by a man with letters. At first she doesn’t understand why he is here, but then he shows her the signature on the letters! That is her name!

What?!

The blackmailer wants £1000 for the whole lot, and Virginia tells him she will think on his offer and get back to him if he comes over at six the next day.

Now the weird thing is that first of all, Virginia never loved her husband and has enjoyed widowhood. She doesn’t think of herself as a saint or worry about her reputation to the extent of the woman in the letters. Secondly, she never wrote any such letters or had a lover named Captain O’Neil in Paris. This is all so strange and doesn’t make a bit of sense. But at the same time it is extremely thrilling, and Virginia is having fun being caught up in it all.

George arrives to discuss his meeting with Virginia and she tells him about the blackmail.

“[Forty pounds is] only what I pay for an evening dress. It’s just as exciting to buy a new experience as it is to buy a new dress–more so, in fact.”

George asks for her assistance in charming Jimmy McGrath in order to weasel the memoirs out of him. Virginia agrees, but warns that she can’t promise anything.

“I don’t charm as a profession, you know. Often I like people–and then, well, they like me. But I don’t think I could set out in cold blood to fascinate a helpless stranger.”

George was hoping that Virginia would just be a willing dupe to his plans, but she won’t get involved in anything without getting the whole story. She is smart, sassy, and doesn’t let anyone pull the wool over her eyes.

George changes his mind about Virginia and tries to get her not invited, as she will wreck all his plans, but it is too late. Lady Eileen “Bundle” Brent, Lord Caterham’s daughter, has already invited her.

This is not good

Meanwhile, Anthony has gone to the hotel manager and reported the theft. He decides not to call the police, and uses that as leverage to get the info on Giuseppe. Later he is contacted by Mr. Balderson of Balderson and Hodgkins Publishing, the company contracted to print the memoir. They wish to have the memiors now as there are many out there after them and they will not rest until they have finished the contract. They send a Mr. Holmes who pays him the £1000.

That taken care of, Anthony heads off to see Mrs. Virginia Revel and tell her the bad news. As he is heading out he is given a note sent by George Lomax asking him to wait to give the memoirs until he speaks to him and invites him to come down to Chimneys. Anthony writes a letter informing them that he already sent of the memoirs and cannot attend the function signing Jimmy McGrath. Exit McGrath, Enter Anthony.

Meanwhile, that day Virginia had been playing tennis. When she arrives home she sees a handsome man selling poems. So handsome, she wishes she had a real job for him or reason to have him stick around.

Virginia goes inside and finds the whole household gone!

Apparently they received a telegram from Virginia that she wanted her cottage set up as she decided that she was going to head down there for a party. The only one who remained was her french maid, Élise, as she would be needed to prepare clothing and dress Virginia.

Virginia calms down the maid and has her get things ready for Chimneys while she prepares to call the cottage, to set things right, and police to keep an eye on the house. She goes into the next room and sees the blackmailer! She had completely forgotten all about him. As she approaches him she sees that he is dead!

Virginia is unsure what to do and who to call to help. George? No, he is too stuffy and wouldn’t get caught in anything that could possibly damage his political career.

A stuffed shirt.

BIll?! Yes Bill! Oh darn, he already left for Chimneys.

Hmmm….

So Virginia goes outside and asks the handsome young man. She tells him the story of the blackmailing and coming across the body, and strangely enough he believes her and promises to help her. Who is this amazing young man? Anthony Cade.

It is too bad that Virginia and her maid didn’t find the dead man together, that would make things less complicated. As it is, it is pretty murky.

Anthony recognizes the man as Giuseppe, the waiter that stole the letters. Anthony looks at the pistol that shot Giuseppe and asks if it belongs to Virginia. She says no she has never seen it and never owned one in her life. Well that’s strange as this one is engraved, Virginia.

Not good

Anthony knows there are only two things left to do:

  1. Ring up the police, tell the whole story, and trust your position and blameless life.
  2. Try to dispose of the body.

Anthony starts looking through the body to see if there is anything on him to help with this determination. He lucks out finding a note that was caught in the lining of his coat.

Chimneys 11:45 Thursday

Virginia finds this odd as she was supposed to be there at Chimneys today, Thursday.

Anthony figures out that someone must have been trying to get rid of Virginia and keep her from coming to the party. They decide to go with plan B as calling the police means that they won’t be able to make it to Chimneys.Virginia gets rid of her maid, sending her off on an errand and telling her to meet her afterwards at Chimneys. They then decide to get rid of the body.

As they prepare Virginia asks him why a perfect stranger is being so kind, there’s no time for Anthony’s life story; they must be on their way. Virginia heads to Chimneys as she originally planned. Anthony goes on to hide the pistol in a tree, he then leaves the trunk in Paddington station, continuing onto Chimneys.

When he gets there he waits to see what will occur. At 11:45 he hears a shot!

He tries the windows to go inside, but all are locked. No one rises at the sound either. A light springs up in one of the windows on the first floor but then the whole place goes into darkness.

The next day it turns out that one of the guests was murdered! Count Stanislaus was found this morning by a maid.

Lord Caterham calls the police, but George insists that they must have the best, Inspector Battle of Scotland Yard.

from Dial “M” for Murder

When he arrives they bring in Anthony Cade as they found his boot tracks through the grass when he was out late that night. He’s brought to Chimneys where he tells his story. He changes a bit to leave out Virginia’s part, and lies saying that when he struggled with Giuseppe in the hotel, Giuseppe dropped a note about Chimneys which brought him there.

It is revealed that Count Stanislaus was not the one murdered but Prince Michael Obolovitch. When Battle has Anthony survey the area to look at where the shot came from, Anthony recognizes the body. But not as Prince Michael Obolovitch, but Mr. Holmes, the man Anthony gave the memoirs to.

So we have a dead prince, espionage, mistaken identity, a secret prince, thief unknown as he has picture perfect disguises, stolen and missing cultural treasures; a mystery and a treasure hunt. Anthony and Virginia team up to discover what the truth is.

I thought it was a fantastic book; it is fun, challenging, and just all around fantastic. I just love it and read it again and again.

Or 10th, 50th, 100th….

It isn’t anything like her later novels, but just all around a great adventure.

BookLifeNoBoredom

Even a Man Pure of Heart: The Wolf Man (1941)

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“Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night, may become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” 

This is such an amazing film as the story is excellent, the acting superb (Lon Chaney Jr. + Claude Rains). It is also a member of Universal’s Classic Monster Movie Collection, its buddies being The Phantom of the OperaFrankenstein,  The Bride of FrankensteinThe MummyDracula, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, etc. And this post means that I have finally, finally finished the list I set out to complete two years ago.

But what really makes this a spectacular film is that many of the modern myths of werewolves were originated in this film: such as a person becoming a werewolf through a bite; the only way to kill a werewolf is with a silver bullet; and changing into one during a full moon. These are all original concepts created by writer Curt Siodmak. Isn’t that amazing! Like The Mummy and The Creature from the Black Lagoon this film isn’t based on a book or any specific resource, which allowed the writers a lot of leeway in their work and creations.

So this isn’t the first werewolf film, as that was The Werewolf of London, which actually did rather poorly in theaters. This was the second werewolf horror film to be made and become the most famous. All the later depictions such as: The Howling, An American Werewolf in London, I Was a Teenage Werewolf, Van Helsing, The Wolfman (2010), etc.looked to it in creating their stories.

So the film was originally written for Boris Karloff, but he turned it down. And although I love that man [read my The Mummy (1932), Frankensteinor The Bride of Frankenstein post] I can’t imagine this film being as amazing with him as the title role. Lon Chaney Jr. was just superb. Lon Chaney Jr, was the son of the famous Lon Chaney (who I talk about in my Phantom of the Opera post) and interestingly the set that was used to film this movie was the same used for The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1923) which starred Lon Chaney Jr.’s  father, Lon Chaney.

Unlike other films, The Wolf Man is the only Universal monster to be played by the same actor in all his 1940s film appearances; Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943), House of Frankenstein (1944), House of Dracula (1945), and  Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948).

Now I love this movie and story but it is soooo sad as well. Here is a wonderful man pure of heart, who has the unfortunate luck of being bitten by a werewolf and can’t do anything to stop it. Unlike modern movies where the person can control it, change at will, etc; in the original when the man transformed into a wolf he literally transformed into becoming a beast and losing all his humanistic thought, reasoning, etc.

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So the film starts out with Lon Chaney Jr. as Lawrence Talbot returning home.

Look at this sweetheart

Look at this sweetheart

His older brother has died, and as he is the second son he will now inherit everything–money, title, family home, etc. More importantly, after the realization that his brother is no longer, Lawrence AKA Larry, is eager to rebuild his relationship with his father. They had previously parted on not the best terms (he wanted to be an engineer his father wanted him to be something else. He decided to run away to California, against his father’s wishes).

Larry reacquaints himself with the village, taking a deep interest in a particular shopkeeper, Gwen Conliffe, who is unfortunately engaged. However, she is equally interested and as Larry buys a silver-wolf handled cane the two make a date to meet up later that night and visit the gypsies that are camping nearby.

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  That night Larry meets up with Gwen and her friend Jenny. The three make off to the gypsies passing some wolfsbane along the way. Both girls repeat the old gypsy folklore about wolfsbane:

Even a man who is pure in heart

and says his prayers by night

may become a wolf when the wolfsbane blooms

and the autumn moon is bright

Now what is really interesting about this old piece of folklore is that it isn’t that old. This quote has been thought to be an Eastern European folk saying, but Siodmak admits that he was the one who made it up. Even though that might be true, it went  down in film history becoming a part of almost every future Werewolf film and recited in every future Universal film appearance of the Wolf Man. [It is quoted by Van Helsing, but one of the lines was changed to “The moon is shining bright” instead of “The autumn moon is bright“]

Meanwhile, in the gypsy camp one of them has a terrible secret. Bela, played by Bela Lugosi, is actually a werewolf and hiding it from everyone.

Mal_huh Whoa Wow

When the group gets to the gypsy camp and have their fortunes read, Bela sees the pentagram on Jenny’s hand and knows that she’s next for death.

Ahhh!

Ahhh!

 

Bela runs off and the trio start walking home. Soon Jenny is attacked by a wolf and Larry tries to save her. He wrestles with the wolf and kills it by braining it with his cane. (It being silver can kill it) Unfortunately, he couldn’t save Jenny and during the battle, he ended up getting bit…

dun-dun-duuuun

Making him the next werewolf.

AAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

AAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

The next day the constable comes to visit, causing Larry to second guess himself as they found a dead Bela instead of a wolf!

Say What

They found Bela beat in the head, and Larry’s silver cane matches perfectly as the weapon.

Col. Paul Montford, chief constable: [showing Larry’s stick to him] Is this your walking stick?

Larry Talbot: Why, yes. That’s the stick I killed the wolf with.

[Sir John Talbot and Col. Montford look at Larry with great concern]

Sir John Talbot: Larry, Bela the gypsy was killed last night. Your walking stick was found next to the body.

Larry Talbot: You mean, Bela the fortune teller? But… I only saw a wolf.

Larry is completely confused as he knows that it was a wolf. And how does that explain the murder of Jenny? Which was done by a wolf? The constable tells him he is still investigating as he really doesn’t want to arrest the Lord’s son, especially since there are so many questions. He ultimately deems the incident an accident.

Larry on the other hand is extremely puzzled. Could he have killed Bela? But he saw a wolf he was bit by one. Except the mark can not be found!

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Larry needs answers and decides he will go see the Gypsy woman and not only apologize for her son’s death but ask her what is going on! Gwen and her fiancé Frank go with him.

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The gypsy woman, Maleva reveals that he did kill a wolf–a werewolf. Her son Bela was a werewolf and the only thing that could kill him was silver, silver like the silver on his cane.

Maleva: You killed the wolf.

Larry Talbot: Well, there’s no crime in that is there?

Maleva: The wolf was Bela.

Larry Talbot: You think I don’t know the difference between a wolf and a man?

Maleva: Bela turned into a wolf and you killed him. A werewolf can only be killed by a silver bullet, or a silver knife…[looks down at Larry’s walking stick]…or a stick with a silver handle.

Larry Talbot: You’re insane! I tell you, I killed a wolf! A PLAIN, ORDINARY WOLF!!!

Maleva: Whoever is bitten by a werewolf and lives becomes a werewolf himself.

Larry Talbot: Ah, don’t hand me that. You’re just wasting your time.

Maleva: The wolf bit you, didn’t he?

Larry Talbot: Yeah. Yeah he did!

Maleva: [Larry shows Maleva his chest wound concealed under his shirt] Go now – and heaven help you!”

 

Larry of course doesn’t believe her and leaves. That night he transforms into the WEREWOLF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Now the transformation was laborious. The makeup took six hours and was the design by  Jack Pierce  for Henry Hull in Werewolf of London Hull had rejected it as he didn’t like how long the process would be to apply it. Chaney Jr. claimed he had to sit motionless for hours as the scenes were shot frame by frame. Pierce used grease paint, a rubber snout, wigs, and glued layers of yak hair to Chaney Jr.’s face. Larry’s dissolve transformation on screen only took seconds, while in actuality it took almost ten hours as they had to keep reapplying layers for the changing fur.

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That night the Wolf Man attacks a grave-digger, Richardson.

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The constable and the Doctor finds his ravaged body and wolf tracks.

Meanwhile, Larry finds himself in bed with wolf tracks all around and has finally decided that the gypsy women must be telling him the truth. He talks to his father who just thinks that he is in shock and doesn’t take any of the “werewolf nonsense” seriously. He even calls the doctor who deems it just a mild form of hysteria.

The Constable and doctor prepare the woods to catch the wolf so that it doesn’t kill another person. The night Larry as the Wolf Man steps in one of the traps and gets caught. Luckily the Gypsy woman frees him, as she had  felt sorry for his predicament.

Larry transforms back into a human and asks the Gypsy woman and for help. She gives him a charm that will protect him from turning into a werewolf and warns him not to give the charm to ANYONE ELSE AS IT WON’T WORK FOR ANYONE ELSE!

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He then runs off to see Gwen to tell her that he is leaving. He knows he has killed the others and doesn’t want to hurt anyone else.

“Larry Talbot: You wouldn’t wanna run away with a murderer wouldja?

Gwen Conliffe: Oh Larry, you’re not. You know you’re not.

Larry Talbot: I killed Bela. I killed Richardson. If I stay here any longer, you can’t tell who’ll be next.”

Gwen tries to get him to take her with him as she loves him, but Larry sees the mark of the pentagram on her hand and tells her he can’t. Instead he gives her the charm. YES THE CHARM  THAT IS ONLY SUPPOSED TO PROTECT HIM! Really Larry? REALLY??????!!!!!!

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YOU ARE MAKING THE  SAME FREAKIN’ MISTAKE THAT EVERY OTHER MONSTER FILM HERO DOES!

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DID YOU NOT HEAR THE WOMAN EARLIER? SHE SAID IT WILL WORK ONLY FOR YOU! ONLY FOR YOU!! ONLY YOU!!! YOU KEEP IT! What’s the point of going to a gypsy for help if you ARE NOT GOING TO LISTEN????!!!!!!! I mean this is such a classic mistake made by these men in these horror films. In Dracula, he gives the girl the cross charm that is supposed to protect only him, and then gets knocked out and is unable to keep her from being kidnapped. In The Mummy, he gives the girl the charm that is only supposed to protect him, and it doesn’t work for her. Instead Imohtep knocks him out and takes the girl anyway. MORAL OF THESE STORIES, KEEP THE DANG CHARM!!! DON’T GIVE IT AWAY!!! Alright! So if any of you are given a protective charm you freakin’ keep it!!! YOU HEAR ME????!!!!

And now that I got that little rant out of my system, let’s get back to the story.

So Larry goes to see his father and asks him to lock him up; tie him up in a chair, lock the door, etc and to go far, far, away as he doesn’t want him to be hurt. He also gives his father his silver cane as he knows that it will protect him.

Now this is why I hate modern interpretations of werewolves, except for The Wolfman (2010), as they never capture this aspect of the story. Here is a good man who has become evil, but he doesn’t want to be evil. It wasn’t like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in which Dr. Jekyll made a choice, or even The Phantom of the Opera where he suffered such horrible things and had a complete snap and broke down. This was a good man who wanted to fix bad things in his life but the timing was off and he too is caught up in the evil. Modern interpretations also never cover the heartbreaking scene as this with his dad. He knows he can’t control the evil and the last thing he does is try to protect the ones he loves, first Gwen and then his father. The most emotional is the scene with his father, as here is a man he has been fighting with, had a horrible relationship, but you see in this moment how much love he has for his father. He gives him the cane as he wants his father to be safe, no matter what. And you see how much his father loves him by taking the cane, even though he thinks Larry is delusional.

The_Wolf_Man_4Crying

Gwen is worried about Larry and goes looking for him, running into the woods even though the Gypsy warns her not to. I mean seriously, why don’t we listen to the Gypsies? They are gypsies, they know stuff.

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So Gwen runs out and into Larry, who has escaped from his room. But instead of the sweet, adorable, loving Larry we are confronted by the horrible beast.

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But before the werewolf can do anything, Sir John comes and hits him with the cane, killing him.

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The constable and doctor presume that Larry was killed trying to save Gwen, but Sir John knows the truth and now is left alone and has to bury his other son.

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Maleva: The way you walked was thorny though no fault of your own, but as the rain enters the soil, the river enters the sea, so tears run to a predestined end. Now you will have peace for eternity.”

right in the feels broken heart

Yep. I have to say that this is one of my all-time favorite horror films. Although it makes me want to cry every time. 

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So that was our kick-off piece. Stay tuned for many more wonderful pieces to come!

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For more on The Wolf Man (1941), go to Pink Elephants

For more on werewolves, go to A Halloween Hello from the Austen Men

For more monster movies, go to They’re Coming to Get You Barbara

For more on Claude Rains, go to Universal’s Classic Monster Movies

For more on Bela Lugosi, go to I Bid You Welcome

For more films that spanned countless sequels and remakes, go to Everyones Entitled to One Good Scare