(Chesterfield/Invincible) 65mins. BW. US.
Credits: Dir: Frank
R. Strayer; Prod: Maury M. Cohen; Sc: Karen DeWolf; Ph: M.A. Anderson; Ed: Roland D.
Reed; Art: Edward C. Jewell; Mus: Abe Meyer.
Cast: Ralph Morgan, Maxine Doyle, Russell Gleason, Pedro
De Cordoba, Lucy Beaumont, Mischa Auer, Carl
Stockdale, Hedi Shope, Paul Weigel, Marilyn Knowlden, Frank Brownlee, Horace B. Carpenter,
Marilyn Knowlden, Edward Cecil, Ted Billings, Harold Goodwin, Charles Whittaker, Dick
Curtis, Robert Frazer, Barbara Bedford,
Blink twice and you might realise that you are not watching a Universal Picture, but
this has all the hallmarks of a film from that studio even though it is a production by
the unknown Invincible Pictures company. Like director Frank R. Strayer's earlier genre entries, The Monster Walks (1932) and in particular The Vampire Bat (1933), CONDEMNED
TO LIVE evokes many of the favourite sequences from Universal's prestige offerings
during the early 30's.
They say "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", and although many
independent studios strived to equal Universal's best, only Frank Strayer came closest.
Three white people, a pregnant woman, her husband and her physician Dr. Duprey, find
themselves stranded in a remote part of darkest Africa. As the native drums beat
thunderously over the jungle, Dr. Duprey remarks that they are safe as long as they stay
in the cavern as the natives fear bats, or "night birds" as they call them. During the night one of the bats affixes itself to the woman's jugular as
her child is born. Before Dr. Duprey dies, he places the infant in the trust of Dr. Anders
Bizet, (Pedro de Cordoba).
Many years later in a peaceful European village, Professor Paul Kristan, (Ralph Morgan),
holds the respect of the community, but then a curious string of gruesome murders ensue and the superstitious villagers
blame the attacks on a giant bat.
However, the real villain is revealed to be the kindly professor who suffers from a
mysterious affliction that even he is not aware of while his faithful hunchbacked
assistant Zan, (Mischa Auer), disposes of the
bodies in a hidden pit. Dr. Anders Bizet arrives in the village and confesses that he knew
of Paul's affliction when he was younger, but was under the belief that he was cured. The
professor's exhaustion from overwork must has brought the affliction back.
Realising that he is the cause of the murders, after Dr. Bizet stops him from biting his
fiance, (Maxine Doyle), Paul leaps from a cliff to his death followed by his devoted
This Poverty Row shocker utilises many elements of the Universal releases including
torch baring mobs, similar European settings and the streamlined plot. Like Strayer's The Vampire Bat filmed for Majestic on Universal's
backlot sets, CONDEMNED TO LIVE utilises the just completed European street and
castle exterior set from The Bride of Frankenstein
and the belltower from The Hunchback of Notre Dame
(1923). From this the film can be regarded as a companion piece to Strayer's earlier film.
M.A. Andersen's camerawork lifts the familiar plot to greater heights, but the same cannot
be said of RCA Victor's "High Fidelity" sound system. The film suffers from a
detracting "mudiness", making some portions of the film only faintly audible.
CONDEMNED TO LIVE is a fine addition to vampire folklore, but despite its
sympathetic twist, Ralph Morgan is still given plenty to do when all is dark and his
malady takes charge. Ralph Morgan, older brother of Frank Morgan who found fame after his
appearance as the Wizard in The Wizard of Oz
(1939), made his screen debut during 1923 and later appeared in The Mad Doctor (1940), Universal's Night Monster (1942), The Monster Maker (1944) and The Creeper (1948).
Mischa Auer, a Russian born comedy actor arrived in Hollywood at the advent of sound and
remained in constant employment until his death at 62 in 1967. Included in his genre
offerings are Drums of Jeopardy (1931), Frank
Strayer's The Monster Walks (1932) and And Then There Were None (1945). Mischa Auer became an Oscar nominee for his role
in MY MAN GODFREY (1937).
CONDEMNED TO LIVE, although a cheaper imitation of Universal's
"horrors", does boast its own credentials and is a most satisfying film offering
from the Poverty Row vaults.
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