The Corpse Vanishes (1942)

corpse vanishes poster 1942 movie
5.0 Overall Score
Story: 5/10
Acting: 5/10
Visual: 5/10

Fun and quick

So-so movie and odd story

Movie Info

Movie Name: The Corpse Vanishes

Studio: Sam Katzman Productions

Genre(s): Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Release Date(s): May 8, 1942

MPAA Rating: Not Rated

corpse vanishes bela lugosi mad scientist

I only needed a needle half this size, but I am a mad scientist

Women have been dying at the altar for unexplained reasons on their wedding day and their bodies have been spirited away by unknown forces.  The police are baffled and the crimes keep occurring.  Reporter Patricia Hunter (Luana Walters) has been assigned the case and when she notices that all the brides seem to have the same orchid corsage, she tracks down Doctor Lorenz (Bela Lugosi) who once bred the flower.  Something mysterious is happening at Doctor Lorenz’s isolated lab, and Patricia is going to uncover it with the help of a visiting doctor named Foster (Tristram Coffin) who has been brought into the doctor’s nefarious schemes.

Directed by Wallace Fox, The Corpse Vanishes is a mad-scientist horror B-Movie.  The film is in public domain and frequently available in multipacks.  Mystery Science Theater 3000 also did a riff of the film in their second season (MST3K #2-05).

Bela Lugosi did some real stinkers after his monumental run as Dracula and appearances in a number of big Universal Monster movies.  Sometimes he was a minor character, but he always seemed to be Bela Lugosi.  The Corpse Vanishes is one of Lugosi’s better horror movies in his post-Universal period, but it still has that B-Movie feel that his earlier films lacked.

corpse vanishes luana walters sleeping

Can’t a girl even get some sleep without being pawed over

The movie’s story is just a weird hodgepodge of different genre films.  The movie dips into His Girl Friday territory with Patricia as the intrepid reporter that does what she can for a story.  It has the weird corpse stealing and the mad scientist experiments to keep Countess Lorenz (played by Elizabeth Russell) young…plus a trio of odd henchmen.  I have to point out that the police in the area must be the worst cops since it seems like a number of brides have died and no one can seemingly track the bodies as they head to the morgue.

Lugosi’s role in the movie doesn’t have much depth.  The character is hopelessly in love with his wife and desperate to save her, but the opportunities for that to be the real story are missed.  Luana Walters is good as the gumshoe/reporter who figures out the poorly planned body robberies, and I like Elizabeth Russell’s over-the-top Countess who doesn’t even play that she doesn’t like Patricia.  Tristram Coffin is pretty bland as the romantic lead, but I like that the movie has a role for Freaks and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome star Angelo Rossitto as one of the henchmen.

corpse vanishes bela lugosi coffin

Nope, nothing see here

As with many public domain films, there are tons of copies of The Corpse Vanishes floating around and it can be difficult to find a clean copy.  Overall the movie’s budget seems pretty low (the weddings are a good example), and the sets feel really generic “mad-scientist” sets.  I do like Lugosi and his wife sleeping in coffins though.

The Corpse Vanishes is short and sweet.  It’s an oddball story that has a classic horror movie feel to it and reminds me of late nights staying up to watch over-night horror on TV.  It isn’t the best horror film you’ll see, but if you are a fan of Lugosi’s work or classic horror, it is worth seeking out.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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