Old Time Radio at OTRCat!

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Svengoolie's offering last night was "The Invisible Ray", starring KARLOFF, and Bela Lugosi. By 1936, Boris Karloff carried enough weight to be billed by his last name, which ticked off Bela Lugosi no end. Lugosi was originally approached to be the Monster in the original "Frankenstein". He wanted lines, and did bot want to be covered up with makeup and appliances. Karloff did the role, and the rest is horror history.

The movie (which could be titled "Janos Rukh and his Electronic Retroscope") opens with Rukh (KARLOFF) impressing the scientists who had previously called him...*GASP* unorthodox *swoon*. He has captured a Ray (the movies loved "rays" around this time) from Andromeda. He can tippie-toe back along the Ray and see back in time. He sees a glowing meteor approach Earth and strike.

Hey. Presto! Rukh discovers a source of Limitless Energy!

Lugosi and Co. suggest a joint scientific expedition to Darkest Africa, where with the aid of a bunch of native bearers, Rukh (who is still played by KARLOFF!) discovers "Radium X", which is not the Shaving Cream Atom. He becomes poisoned and all glow-in-the-darkey. His beautiful young wife wants to see him, 'cos it's been weeks, but he must feign disinterest, because his touch causes instant death, and spurning your wife, driving her to a younger man, is infinitely preferable to telling her your problem, gaining her renewed love and sympathy.

The African bearers are freaked out and want to leave. Rukh, in his first hint of ca-RAZY, tells them to look at a huge boulder. He aims his Radium X projector at the rock, and proceeds to melt it to slag. If the bearers run, he will do the same to them. Such labour relations!  This scene involves the neatest special effect. The rock is apparently made of dirt and clay. When Rukh focuses his device on it, internal water jets cause the "rock" to begin to dissolve, until there is only a small pile remaining. Very effective practical effect.

The poisoning, which is allayed by regular injections of a serum developed by Dr. Benet (Lugosi, Bela Lugosi), still turns Rukh into a paranoid freak who feigns his own death in order to kill all the members of the party, thinking they stole everything from him. (Benet and Co. took the Radium X and use it's mysterious healing powers to heal the sick. Because RAYS!) They ethically inform the press that Rukh discovered it all, and he received the Nobel prize in absentia (this before the crazy phony death thing). Rukh maintains that they stole his discovery regardless, which drives him to his mad scheme.

I shan't spoil the whole thing. IMDB can do that for you. A fun Jiffy Pop movie.

Apparently Janos Rukh and George Bailey are half-brothers. Beulah Bondi plays mother in both this and in "It's a Wonderful Life."

Here is Rukh's wife:

proving he WAS crazy!


Michael W said...

One of my favorites if only for a chance to see Frances Drake slink across a castle room while wearing a nicely clinging piece of evening loungewear (proof positive that even Mad Scientists could score with hot babes).

I also think glowing people can be a creepy movie effect (and about the only reason to watch Lon Chaney Jr. in "The Indestructible Man").

The Aardvark said...


I was amazed at the (obviously) hand-done glow animation for KARLOFF's character. It was well done. Rather like that shadow under Luke's landspeeder in ep. 4.

Michael W said...

Yes, none of this "yawn . . . push a button, then go collect a paycheck". People actually worked back then.

This is why people will be watching Ray Harryhausen films long after all of George Lucas' CGI-fests will have fallen by the wayside.

(Didn't Tsuburaya-san and his crew hand-animate all the laser beam etc. effects in the classic kaiju films?)

The Aardvark said...

I believe so. A classic method is to actually scratch the beam onto the negative. They likely did it optically, though the original maser cannon effects may have been done the more primitive way.