Sunday, May 12, 2019

Rare Holiday Flix: Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire (1952)

A Film only a Mother could love.  Assuming said Mother had never seen a Comedy before, that is.  This is Old Mother Riley Meets the Vampire, a 1952 Comedy starring a British Comedy 'Legend' that I had never heard of before.  Given the quality of this one, I can't imagine that I'll hear it again either.  This Film goes by many different names, as it was changed for both the U.S. Release AND the U.S. Re-Release in 1963.  Yes, someone released this TWICE and ON PURPOSE.  This is the last in the Mother Riley Series and somehow the most famous.  Why?  Bela Lugosi, baby!  Right before he was mourning his dead wife for Ed Wood, he was over in England appearing in this.  Is this more embarrassing than Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla?  No, but close.  This is one of those Films where the Stories behind it are actually kind of interesting, even if the Movie isn't.  I'll go into most of them in the Review proper to spice up the Recap.  Sufficed to say, Bela was in England and needed money, so he agreed.  The Plot involves a Mad Scientist who thinks that he's a Vampire, Old Mother Riley, a shipping mix-up and a Plot to conquer the World.  Incidentally, the copy I found was from the re-release, so it has a new Title, omits Bela from the Credits AND has an Allen Sherman Song over the intro.  To find out why this is so infamous, read on...
In England, the Vampire is kidnapping people.  He's actually just a confused Scientist who wants to rule the World.

So two things...
1) He's not a Vampire, so that this could be shown to Kids, apparently the biggest audience for this.
2) Bela came to England for a Revival of Dracula.  It failed and he was stuck in England, leading to this Film.  That's why he has his outfit.
This is Old Mother Riley.  She runs a Shop and sings a song about how she shouldn't pay her debts.

Somehow, this is the TWELFTH TIME this Character led a Film and it is apparently considered to be the original 'guy in drag succeeds in Comedy.'  Suck it, Medea!
She inherits something from a dead Uncle, which makes her happy.  It also doesn't lead to another song, so it makes me happy.
There's a mix-up at the port and she get the Robot made for Bela.  He apparently made it, but also needed to ship it to himself, because...shut up.
This leads to lots of 'hijinks' involving Riley...but she's annoying, so I'll skip it.

I won't skip this factoid though- this is the only Riley Film without the Daughter Character.  Why?
Well, the Actor and Actress were MARRIED and had a nasty split in 1951.
There is quite a bit of random, physical comedy here that apparently was done by his understudy.  The Actor that played Riley died 2 years later, so I guess that's no shock.

This shot of her jumping out a window does encompass my feelings though.
It all comes down to a bunch of physical comedy bits, including a prolonged 'through vases at each other' bit.

The confusing highlight- this part where Riley grabs a gun and it fires...arrows...that hit different spots.  What and or huh?!?
Oh and the Robot is supposed to be a big part of this.  Riley takes AGES to find it in front of her, runs from it, but then easily takes it apart when the Plot says so.
It all builds up to a big chase, a shoot-out with the Police and Bela being caught.  Riley, meanwhile, crashes a bike into the water and breaks the 4th Wall.  The End.
Bad, bad stuff.  Maybe there was a time and place where this was hilarious.  Like I said, they made 12 of these, so maybe I'm just wrong.  Bad Comedies are always the worst ones to sit through.  Riley is loud, obnoxious and not very likable.  She randomly gets heroic in the 3rd Act, so go figure.  Supposedly there were attempts made to shoot more footage of Bela and use less of Riley for the U.S release, but Bela was too ill.  It's a damn shame, since he's clearly the best part of this.  Like his other Poverty Row Films, Bela suffers for us (and the paycheck).  Even in his more frail state, his natural showmanship is here.  It's just a shame that people only wanted to use him as a comic foil in his later Years- the man was talented!  If this was more of a showcase for him, this would be easier to recommend.  As it is, it is a pretty bad, pretty broad Comedy with very little Plot and structure.  They kidnap Riley, then make her a Maid, then try to get her to work for them on their plan and THEN she just leaves- Story Part over.  All of the stuff that should be interesting- Bela, the Robot and him thinking that he's a Vampire- are not used enough.  In their place, bad comedy and a Sub-Plot or two that goes nowhere.  This is ostensibly about Bela needing a map to a Uranium Mine to make his Robot Army, but that barely plays a part.  Even at the end, he gets the info and...it's not there?!?  What?!?  You may disagree, but I've had my lifetime share of Old Mother Riley.  I will point out this doubly-funny (I think by accident) fake Newspaper.  First, you have the redundant writing on the left.  Second, you have the Headline to a Story that I'd rather read than watch this Film!
I wish I had gone with my backup plan for this Year.  At least that would have had some interesting Murder in it.  Happy Mother's Day!

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