Condemned to Live
SAINT OR SATAN! MAN OR MONSTER!
Year of Release: 1935
Also Known As: Demon of Doom
Running Time: 67 minutes (1:07)
Director: Frank R. Strayer
Ralph Morgan ... Prof. Paul Kristan
Pedro de Cordoba ... Dr. Anders Bizet
Maxine Doyle ... Marguerite Mane
Russell Gleason ... David
Mischa Auer ... Zan, the Hunchback
Lucy Beaumont ... Mother Molly
A small European village is the site of a series of horrible murders, thought to be the result of some vicious animal attacks. When the local doctor begins to look into the deaths, he discovers the victims were really attacked by some type of vampire-like creature. The doctor is also startled to find that he may be responsible for the deaths, due to a condition he acquired when his mother was attacked by a creature while pregnant with him.
Condemned to Live, remindin' us that marryin' for money, security, or status, ultimately ends with a permanent neck hickey, or four years of slappin' away a tiny hand durin' public appearances.
An speakin' of impotence on exhibition, if there's one thing I can't stand it's a gott-danged showoff. Aesop Marlin showed up for the big unveilin' of Skunky Hernandez' new catfish pond out at the Grime Time this past weekend, which in an of itself is okay, I guess, cept he did it TWO HOURS before we'd started settin' up for the night an actually dropped his boat in there without even askin' anybody. We're not exactly talkin' Lake Michigan here either. I mean, no sane human bein' would bring a boat to a pond this size, but then I've yet to see any evidence of humanity outta Aesop in the time I've known 'im. Tetnis was back in his office performin' an emergency nail removal from Abel Pankins' hind quarters (long story that I won't go into right now) or Skunky prolly woulda had 'im paddle out there an grind Aesop up into bacon bits with his own rotor blades like in I Spit on Your Grave, but as it was he ended up just leavin' 'im out there. I was already a little on edge about the possibility of Delbert Biddle sneakin' in an dynamitin' our inventory after what went down just tryin' to get the culvert pipe installed over the last few weeks, an when Billy Hilliard an I got there an saw Aesop floatin' around in his Duckworth I was royally hacked off. I hadda huck rocks at his plexiglass windshield for a good 20 minutes before I got that outta my system, an even then I felt compelled to offer the patrons a quarter for every scrap of Aesop's shirt they were able to rip off 'im with their fishin' lures, which was well worth the $5.50 I hadda shell out over the course of the night.
Anyway, one thing I'll say for Skunky Hernandez is he really knows how to sensationalize an otherwise mundane event. He actually got up on toppa the concession stand with a bullhorn an addressed the audience like a South American dictator on a balcony an told everyone what a momentous occasion it was an how we were enterin' a new era in drive-in culture (which is serious bullstuff, cause he ain't NEARLY the first guy to do this), yadda yadda, before finally explainin' the catch an release policy an mentionin' the two specially tagged fish in the pond that could be turned in to the concession stand an deep fried for free. Somethin' else he did to herd folks towards his latest attraction was to show three of the lousiest goll danged movies you'll ever see (the other flicks he chose were Casablanca Express an Torture Ship), an that proved pretty effective at gettin' people out to the pond, cause there musta been 50 lawn chairs, 22 styrofoam ice chests, an a dozen Coleman lanterns out there. So basically it was a big hit; everybody seemed to enjoy the new addition, no fist fights or kids scarin' the fish with rocks, an the catch an release policy was followed to the letter (other'n when a fish swallowed the hook to the point that we'da had to call out a veterinarian to extract it). Tetnis checked everyone's trunks an truck beds an never found a single fish... least not until he got to lookin' around in Aesop's boat, that is. Apparently his premature excursion into Lake Skunky netted 'im a few cats before Skunky'd made his catch an release proclamation, an, well, the other patrons didn't take it very well. Tetnis was already reachin' into his pocket for the tools of his trade, but by the time he'd fished the knuckle buckles out of his pocket the other fishermen'd already swarmed Aesop's boat an torn it into a coupla thousand pieces. It's scattered all over the county now. Pretty sure I saw a chunka the hand rail stickin' outta Irv Knox's lawn on the way to the Videodome yesterday afternoon, but like I was sayin': big success with this latest scheme, an we're expectin' it to pay some pretty decent dividends. Specially since the supply of public domain movies is finite, an some folks're liable to notice once we've shown the same flick seven or eight times.
I'll tell ya one thing - I'da rather been down at the pond than projectin' the turkey we got to discuss this week. I guess it ain't all bad, but I really hate these weeks where Skunky gets P.O.'d cause I been showin' too many '70s & '80s flicks an forces me to run movies that're older'n the paint job on Harold Alderman's picket fence. Basically, Condemned to Live is another Frank Strayer horror flick from back before he started makin' all those Blondie pictures based on the comic strip, an once you realize you're in the hands of a man who could make 12 movies based on the exploits of a 4-panel comic strip character, it becomes pretty clear that you're prolly gonna hafta run out to the Jiffy Mart to grab another case of beer if you plan on survivin' the padding extravaganza that awaits. I guess Frank's take on the vampire does at least give us the opportunity to look into some of the less-than-popular culture surroundin' the bloodsucker mythology, so go ahead an turn up a coupla cans real quick an hopefully once everyone's good an buzzed this'll all sound a whole lot more profound. First, no matter how careful your mama is when she's pregnant, any affliction that strikes an hour before your birth becomes hereditary. So for all the expectant mamas out there: don't letcher babies grow up to be vampires - invest in a maternity turtle neck today. Second, never take road trips with vampires, cause anybody who stays up all night guzzlin' a gallon of blood is gonna cause constant rest area stoppages. An third, aiding and abetting a vampire is considered a misdemeanor in rural Europe.
But the thing that really bugs me about these older flicks is how they just can't manage to get through the full hour without engagin' in *some* kinda stereotypical presumption - good or bad. If it ain't the drunken Indian it's the sneaky Jap, or the lazy Mexican leaned up against a burro takin' a siesta. It's just a little silly is all I'm sayin'. Like when your grandma sees a really tall black guy in the Piggly Wiggly an asks 'im if he's one of the Harlem Globetrotters, or that time when Apollo Creed just *assumed* Rocky could cook cause he's Italian, it's just bad form. So let's take a minute to set the record straight here: a LOT of black guys just straight up STINK at basketball. Not everybody who owns a set of coveralls with a little name flap coverin' the pocket knows how to fix your transmission, an with regard to this particular movie - not all hunchbacks make good bell-ringers. I discovered this for myself a coupla years back when I convinced our church organist, Suchi Fujiyama, to give it a shot in the interest of science. See, Suchi's got this medical condition that causes 'er to have a hump on 'er back so big that sometimes we hafta chase away Norwegian whalers who'd hide outside the church durin' mass waitin' to harpoon the poor ole gal, but when we went up into the bell tower she just flat couldn't do it. For one thing, Suchi's approximately 115 years old an claims to've been at Hiroshima when the bomb dropped, so she just didn't have the arm strength necessary to pull down on the chime an hadda resort to slingin' it all over the place like she was ringin' the dinner bell on Bonanza. But the point is: Suchi wasn't qualified for the job, despite her supposed physiological advantage. Great organist - matter of fact, she's the only church organist I know who can play the entire score from Phantasm without a music sheet, but a bell-ringer she ain't. So let's all just stop with these kinda unsubstantiated assumptions, cause if there's one thing this world *don't* need, it's an ineffectual workforce. We've already got the millennials for that.
The movie begins with this couple an their traveling family physician trapped in a cave down in Africa where the lady's gettin' the tar scared out of 'er cause of these Congolese Tommy Lees're practicin' the drum solo from Dr. Feelgood out in the jungle. The husband's got the willies too, but the doctor tells 'im not to worry cause the natives're afraid of all the vampire bats that live in the cave an that they'll prolly be so tuckered out by the time the Catholic missionaries show up with their UNICEF pillow shipment that they should be headin' to bed pretty soon. Unfortunately, while the doctor's explainin' all this, a member of Bela Lugosi's extended family flies down an starts neckin' with the woman an passes its vampire bat genes down to the baby she's just hours from squatapultin' out of 'er mama parts. Then we travel up a continent an 40 years into the future to this quaint little European village that's bein' inundated with deplasmafied corpses, an when the town doctor (Paul Kristan) shows up with his Sonny Bono-haired hunchbacked assistant (Zan) at the scene of the latest blood kegger, he an Quasibono determine that the murder was either the work of a vampire, or someone with the mediocre intelligence required to know it ain't smart to kill people durin' banker's hours. Probably a vampire though, so he instructs everyone to stay indoors at night an to keep the sinnin' to a minimum. The next mornin', the doc's first batch of black plague victims start shufflin' into his office, an while his housekeeper (Mother Molly) checks on the validity of their insurance information, he hangs out in his study an flirts with his mail order peasant bride (Marguerite), til Zan the Incredible Stinking Man skulks in an Marge starts gettin' all judgemental about the speed bump growin' outta Zan's back. Then the doc tells 'er to cut that crap out cause Zan's his main man, an besides that she's only a coupla warts an a unibrow shy of livin' in the leper reserve on the other side of the tracks. Marge's real embarrassed now, so she gives Zan a flower like they're on The Bachelorette an goes to hang out with this guy dressed like Pee Wee Herman (David) who's smitten with 'er, cept he's pretty P.O.'d about how she's turned snot-nose on 'im ever since the doc started invitin' 'er over to play naughty nurse, so she hasta tell 'im to go fluff his own derby if he's gonna be a pitiful clingwad.
But later that night the doc accidentally nods off in the middle of the "How to Spot Signs of Lycanthropy" chapter in his copy of "Leeches and Leprosy: A Guide to Medical Maladies", an by the time he wakes up it's a quarter to 2 in the AM an he starts Hyde-perventilatin' an clutchin' his chest like he's about to give 'imself a waxin' without the aid of any follicle compound, before sneakin' next door an chewin' on some lady's larynx. Now the doc's really gotten 'imself into trouble, an suffice to say that if he hadn't passed out from chuggin' all that cocaine-laced plasma he'd prolly be wonderin': "who can take this gal's thighs, stash 'em outta view, suture up the slits an tryda pin it on the grue?" An fortunately for him, as we soon find out - The Zandyman can. Picks 'er up, lugs 'er pasty white hinder down to an old cave, an dumps 'er like a Hefty bag fulla Solo cups after a white trash campin' trip. Course when the woman turns up missin' everyone immediately heads down to the cave to look for 'er since it seems to be the hip place to go dyin' these days, an next thing you know they're all torched up an bangin' on the doc's door in the middle of the night lookin' to get a prognosis. David meanwhile is gettin' pretty ticked off about their little Libertarian paradise an its lack of a constable, an so he suggests the townspeople start up a neighborhood watch to try catchin' ole Count Snackula in the actula, only everybody's basically chickenstuff an unable to help cause they've gotta wash their hair an knit scarves, or whatever it is these sissy types do when they're really just cowerin' like Hekawi Indians. Then, the followin' mornin', Dr. Anders Bizet (Paul's foster father) comes to town to see how things're comin' along after everybody got together an decided to start choppin' the heads offa aristocrats with bad wigs, an Paul tells 'im he's gotten engaged an takes 'im over to Marguerite's place to show 'im the piece of tail he's managed to schmooze, only after talkin' to 'er Anders thinks Marge's just awestruck or afraid that Paul's gonna spill the beans about 'er silicone butt implants if she refuses to marry 'im, an so Paul gets real insecure an goes to talk to 'er.
Only problem is it's windier'n the chow line at a Mexican military base, an after awhile Paul ends up crash landin' on his lantern where he eventually awakens with mud on his face, his sense misplaced, an hopin' Miss Marge ain't packin' her mace. Meanwhile, the housekeeper lets slip that Paul's gone to Marge's place an Anders' eyeballs swell up like a gut pile in July an next thing you know it's good golly Miss Molly, fetch that man a lantern before Paul gets 'imself overdrawn at the blood bank. Unfortunately Paul's already over at Marge's house puttin' the bite on the maid, an so Zan hasta come drag his ass back to the spot where he ate dirt a few minutes earlier so that by the time Anders shows up Paul's groggier'n a narcoleptic at an Andy Warhol film festival an has no idea what he's been up to. But once home he begins to notice the correlation between his blackouts an every single murder an decides to head back to Marge's place to let 'er know that he prolly shouldn't be fertilizin' 'er lawn if he's gonna be turnin' monster every night an scarin' the crap outta the local insomniacs. But by this point Anders has a hunch that Mr. Lumpy Lumbar might not be tellin' 'im the whole truth, so he threatens to put a saddle on Zan an sell 'im to an Arab if he don't spill the beans about Paul's sudden obsession with everyone's neck hygiene, til he finally rolls over on the doc an tells Anders the guy's nibbled the necks of more chicks than Wilt Chamberlain. Trouble is, the revelation comes just a teensy bit too late, cause by now the pitchfolk have arrived at Paul's pad to lynch the hunchback of murdered dames, so Anders hasta tell 'em Zan's gone back to Marge's house with Paul so they won't kick the door in an torch the place like Romans in the library of Alexandria. Now Paul's *really* workin' on borrowed time, cause not only does he hafta explain to Marge that he can't marry 'er cause he's afraid if he does their babies'll be born with debilitatin' garlic allergies an a desire to gnaw off 'er nipples to get to the good stuff underneath, but he's also gotta do it before the angry mob shows up to pan sear his pantaloons. Goin' much farther'n this would give a lot of the ending away, so I think I'll cut it off here, but this title has long been part of the public domain, so you can check it out at the link below if you've got a lotta time on your hands.
Alrighty, well, the title seems appropriate in the sense that there's little chance of anyone dying of fright during the proceedings, despite its being an amalgamation of two of the best horror titles of the era, namely: Dracula, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, although it also bears a strong resemblance to Strayer's previous film, The Vampire Bat. The biggest problem this flick has when compared to Vampire Bat is that Vampire Bat had Lionel Atwill in the role of the villain, where as Condemned barely has a villain at all. And as is often the case with these '30s "Horror" pictures, it's rather light on horror and tends to drift into Drama territory pretty regularly, which is due in no small part to its insistence on a love triangle storyline. Does anyone besides middle-aged women trapped in loveless marriages even like love triangles in film? One thing's for sure, if you're gonna try it in a horror flick *at least* one person needs to be certifiably and unapologetically insane, otherwise the audience's eyes start to glaze over like a Walking Dead extra. Heck, maybe it's just me, cause I'm still no closer to understandin' what it is folks take away from these "portrait of a madman" movies where the madman never does anything all that mad. Hitchcock can do "portrait of a madman" flicks, everybody else, please, just give the lunatic a butcher knife and a psychological disorder caused by intense sexual repression and be done with it. These mediocre moldy oldies are the only titles that almost make me question my ratings system, because at their core you'll be hard pressed to find one that's legitimately bad on a technical level. They're boring as all get out, but you don't see bad acting, shoddy sets, or an astoundingly botched plot the way you can in a movie from the 1950s. I suspect this is probably because the medium was so new at the time that nobody was willing to cut corners budgetarily early on out of concern that they might destroy people's fascination and/or enthusiasm. But even if this is the case, that theory clearly went out the window right around the time of the science fiction boom of the '50s, because many of those flicks were bad in ways that were altogether new, where these stuffy 1930s movies are just an unbearable slog 90% of the time, despite having no significant problems on the production front. One thing I will give the casts and crews that produced these movies: they certainly churned them out quickly without ever allowing the shoddiness you often see in an '80s flick produced on the same shooting schedule, because they all come across as very professional. Now granted, many of these really old titles have running times that don't even break an hour (and even if they do, they seldom reach the 90 minute mark as most movies started doing by the '50s), but they shot this movie in 10 days, and with the exception of a few jump cuts, there's really no evidence to suggest the production was rushed. So there, I said something nice about a 1930s public domain title, now let's all forget about it and never actually watch it ever again.
Now then, time to undertake a slightly more in depth examination and see if we can't all stay conscious for another eight minutes. The plot, despite being a mixture of two of the best titles of the era, really fails to implement the pieces that made those two titles as watchable as they were (by '30s standards anyway). Ralph Morgan's "transformation" from mild mannered bore to slathering drool monster occurs with virtually no build-up, no noticeable difference in physical appearance, and ends up being remarkably tame even by the standards of the era. This is, of course, to say nothing of the fact that he came upon his affliction when his mother was bitten by a vampire bat just minutes or hours before his birth, which is really only the kinda nonsensical detail you'd bitch about if you were bored outta your skull and wanted to lash out at the writers 82 years too late. Not me though, carryin' all that hate around just wears ya out and sullies your otherwise sunny disposition. The acting is alright. No stand out performances, but that kinda goes without saying when you've got no Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney (Sr. or Jr.), Peter Lorre, Colin Clive, Dwight Frye, or Lionel Atwill in the movie. Mischa Auer gives the best performance as the sycophantic, semi-wretched hunchback Zan, although that's essentially just making the declaration that he brought at least a small amount of depth and didn't put the audience to sleep the way the rest of the cast does. Everybody else is Joe Friday from Dragnet.
Here's who matters and why: Ralph Morgan (The Monster Maker, The Creeper 1948, The Monster and the Ape, Night Monster), Pedro de Cordoba (The Beast with Five Fingers, The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Ghost Breakers, The Devil-Doll 1936), Maxine Doyle (The Lady and the monster), Mischa Auer (Murder at Dawn, The Monster Walks), Lucy Beaumont (The Devil-Doll 1936), Carl Stockdale (Revolt of the Zombies, The Vampire Bat), Robert Frazer (Black Dragons, The Vampire Bat, The Whispering Shadow, White Zombie), Ferdinand Schumann-Heink (Invisible Agent), Ted Billings (Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Tarzan and the Leopard Woman, The Body Snatcher, The Invisible Man's Revenge, Horror Island, The Invisible Ray, Murders in the Rue Morgue), Horace B. Carpenter (Return of the Ape Man, The Shadow 1940, Maniac 1934), Edward Cecil (The Phantom of the Opera 1925), Dick Curtis (The Phantom 1943, Batman 1943, The Man They Could Not Hang, King Kong 1933), Harold Goodwin (The Boy Who Cried Werewolf, The Leech Woman, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars, Abbott and Costello Meet the Invisible Man, Tarzan and the Golden Lion), Paul Weigel (Dracula's Daughter, The Invisible Ray, The Vampire Bat, The Black Room 1935, The Black Cat), Slim Whitaker (The Mad Monster, Flash Gordon 1936). There is one mainstream credit to report for Harold Goodwin, who somehow managed to land the role of Stagg in The Cameraman alongside Buster Keaton, but he was the soul survivor of the carnage.
As for the special effects, I'm sure you probably know the drill by now; there ain't none. One pitiful bat suspended by wires that bites Mama Kristan, that's all. The sets are pretty decent, and appear to have been recycled from The Vampire Bat, and probably several other movies that I might be able to name if I had a more powerful attention span. The stone streets and buildings are well constructed and in line with what you'd expect to see in a movie set sometime in 19th Century Europe, with interiors that are well decorated in the appropriate "ye olde" tradition of the era. There is *one* shot that takes place on a path through the woods that actually looks like they're out in the real world, which *could* be the case, but most filmmakers rarely strayed from their sound stages in those days, so it's hard to say. Either way, it's a good looking scene, and the sets/shooting locations on the whole help to bolster the flick's atmosphere. With regard to the soundtrack... right, 1930s, so there isn't one other than the generic little string numbers that play over the opening and closing credits. Unfortunately, there isn't much in the way of sound effects picking up the slack, as is customary in these older titles. We got no howling wolves, thunder claps, creaking doors, or any of the usual cliches to help fill the void left vacant by the absence of a score, although one could argue that, with as little action as this movie contains, there aren't a lot of places to even insert them. The lack of creepy sounds isn't really damaging per se, but it's possible that including them may have enhanced the mood a little bit. Overall, to anybody under the age of 55 this thing is probably unwatchable, but it's got decent production values and a functional story, so if you're a fan of classic Horror, it's entirely possible you'll enjoy it. Conversely, if you need action to hold your interest, you'll definitely want to look elsewhere.