CineSavant Column

Tuesday April 23, 2019


Both Lee Kaplan and Gary Teetzel tipped me off to an article and video that most rabid Bela Lugosi fans have seen by now: Fox station KTTV has dug up some vintage footage of Lugosi preparing to leave the Metropolitan State Hospital after his treatment for drug addiction in the mid-’50s. We’ve seen photos of Bela looking terribly frail in the hospital; this footage has him showing off his surprising physical fitness! Check it out: Bela Lugosi, the one they call Count Dracula.

I finally caught up with Andrew L. Stone’s The Decks Ran Red on TCM the other week, and found out why the James Mason-Broderick Crawford mutiny tale isn’t considered a classic — somebody decided it wasn’t exciting enough, and needed a running narration that kills the story by telling us that everything will turn out okay for Captain Mason. But I was surprised to see the main title for the B&W picture, in which one word is written in bright RED, complete with animated drops of dripping blood. Twenty years ago I thought it was a big deal to discover that Warners in 1954 had added a color main title treatment to its B&W sci-fi hit Them!, but nobody ever tipped me off that MGM had pulled the same trick. Hey, the film is available at The Warner Archive Collection … maybe I should review it.

With The Land Unknown coming out, I take the opportunity to feature a photo sent in from Oregon by Wayne Schmidt. Last week he came upon a Sinclair gas station with one of those beautiful old-fashioned mascot statues that has the texture of a shiny new car!  Here’s a link to a Sinclair Page about the history of their mascot, which doesn’t appear to have a name, unless it’s ‘Dino.’ It says the shiny gas station mascots were made of Fiberglas. I’m bummed because I never got my picture taken with one, and I considered myself the #1 dinosaur fan of the 1950s.

And since we’re in a dino-groove, the association of dinosaurs with gas stations reminded me of the goofy animated dinosaurs back in an ancient TV commercial that ‘turned into a layer of organic matter’ and were squeezed into gasoline… for Chevron Oil, actually. Thanks to the miracle of Google, finding a YouTube copy of the 1977 commercial was only about four clicks away … so here it is, ‘Dinosaur.’   Perhaps fifty million years from now, vacationing aliens will visit Earth and find that everything we are and ever will be has been squeezed into a similar layer of organic matter… littered with plastic.

Thanks for reading! — Glenn Erickson