My Week in Movies: Oct. 7-13

Invisible Invaders (1959) It appears I’ve found the bottom of the Netflix Instant barrel, a John Agar groaner that recycles plot points from Plan 9 from Outer Space. Yes, that Plan 9 from Outer Space. Invisible moon men use reanimated corpses to destroy the Earth, or, at least, get the story to go from library clip to library clip with enough repurposed film to rename this Stock Footage: The Movie. The production is shoddy and the plot’s logic nonexistent, but nothing tops the idiocy of the main message, which boils down to “if the nations of the world stop seeking war with each other, they can finally work together in harmony to kill all the aliens real good.” Gandhi couldn’t have said it better.

The Wolf Man (1941) Funny how you can watch a movie fifty times and still connect to something new on the fifty-first. My latest revisit with The Wolf Man felt fresh, with the film’s tragedy hitting me as more haunting than usual. Most of this is from the elegance (and, at times, the chill) of Claude Rains’ performance. I always connected with Lon Chaney, Jr.’s turn in the title role, a man who’s trying to fit in but who never can, and who now bears a burden he never expected; Chaney plays him as a man defeated, to devastating effect. This time around, however, I was crushed just as thoroughly by Rains, who, as the senior Talbot, hopes to steer his son toward the light, only to know his guidance cannot be enough. Curt Siodmak’s script loads Rains with pure poetry (his speech on the grey areas of morality is a knock-out), allowing a complexity to morality too few monster movies permit themselves.

The Cat and the Canary (1927) The granddaddy of old dark house movies, The Cat and the Canary remains a blast to watch, thanks to a smart mix of spookiness and humor. Silent master Paul Leni, making his Hollywood debut, brings some of his German expressionist tricks to the shadows and the sets; this is a terrific film to watch, right down to the interstitials, which occasionally jump and wiggle as the characters gulp in fear. And oh, man, when that clawed hand comes through the wall…

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