Review: Wallace Fox’s “The Corpse Vanishes,” Starring Bela Lugosi

Bela Lugosi in
Bela Lugosi in "The Corpse Vanishes"

Despite his iconic star turn as Dracula in 1931, Bela Lugosi never managed to have a successful career outside of low budget horror films. A decade after that first Universal monster movie, Lugosi was still at the studio working as a supporting actor. In even cheaper productions at Poverty Row studios like Banner Productions, he worked as a lead, the films released through the similarly cheap distributor Monogram. The second of three films the actor made for Banner and Monogram in 1942, The Corpse Vanishes has all of the cheap sets, wooden acting, and nonsensical writing that defined this type of sub-B movie.

Lugosi plays Dr. Lorenz, a mad scientist type who, for whatever reason, kills brides on their wedding day using poison flowers—and then steals their corpses to bring back to his dilapidated mansion. Investigating the series of stolen corpses, budding journalist Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters) comes to interview Lorenz, but ends up shockingly enough as his next victim instead. She comes to learn that Lorenz is extracting fluid from the women’s glands to inject into his aging wife (Elizabeth Russell) so she can retain her youth.

As written by Harvey Gates and directed by Wallace Fox, the film fails to convey any real sense of mystery or suspense. The dialogue is completely banal, and no one in the cast but Lugosi has any sense of how to deliver it. Yet Lugosi is hardly even in the hour-long film, rendering the already laughable story all the more dull.

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