Thursday, August 21, 2014



"You'll Tremble With Suspense !

    In addition to Ray Harryhausen's IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA and EARTH VS. THE FLYING SAUCERS, during the 1950's producer Sam Katzman cranked out dozens of "B" films including a handful of horror titles (the majority of which were distributed by Columbia) that while being undeniably low budget & schlocky do exclude a certain perverse curiosity with probably the most (in)famous being 1957's THE GIANT CLAW. In 2007 Sony issued a nifty 2 DVD set that collected four Katzman productions including the aforementioned CLAW along with the interesting wolfman via 1950's atomic paranoia THE WEREWOLF (1956) and CREATURE WITH THE ATOM BRAIN (1955), plus ZOMBIES OF MORA TAU (1957).
    Although 1957's THE MAN WHO TURNED TO STONE didn't make the cut for the above package, it has shown up through the Sony MOD program which is good news indeed. Like most of Katzman's productions its a bit talky and sometimes slow moving, but in it's own way does have a weirdly surreal atmosphere running through it (whether by design or not) with a closing shot that is strangely haunting. Throwing some 1950's female JD plot elements (ala' REFORM SCHOOL GIRL) into a low budget horror programmer is an inspired idea and as helped along by the presence of veteran character actors Victor Jory  & Ann Doren, plus the work of cinematographer Benjamin H. Kline (who shot many of The Three Stooges shorts) the film is an entertaining example of "B" 50's horror.

   At the La Salle Detention Home For Girls (where most of the "girls" seem a bit long in the tooth) strange things have been happening with the sudden death of a number of the residents (usually proceeded by a blood curdling scream) which begins to arouse the suspicion of sympathetic new social worker Carol Adams (Charlotte Austin from FRANKENSTEIN 1970). The victims are usually found to have died of a "heart attack", but when one of the inmates turns up as a suicide and is found hanging in the dormitory ("she would no sooner commit suicide then she could've flown over the fence !"), Carol becomes convinced something nefarious is going on.
   Helped by her assistant & inmate Tracy (Jean Willes - who in a few years would be hanging out with Frank & The Rat Pack in OCEANS 11) along with visiting state appointed psychiatrist & soon to be love interest Dr Jess Rogers (William Hudson - best known as Allison Hayes philandering husband in ATTACK OF THE 50 FOOT WOMAN) Carol begins investigating the strange goings on - which seem to be tied in to a spooky bunch of recently appointed school administrators who include Dr. Murdock (Victor Jory), his creepy assistant Mrs. Ford (Ann Doran -who appeared in literally hundreds of movies and TV shows) and their REALLY creepy associate/ henchman Eric (the grim and never smiling Freidrich von Ledebur).

    It's soon discovered that Dr. Murdoch and his gang are actually a group of 18th century scientists who have discovered the secret of eternal life that consists of literally transferring the life energy out of young girls, which entails placing the victims in a metal bathtub and then hooking up some Ed Wood-like electrical equipment to an electric chair looking device that transfers their life energy to the 200 plus year old protagonists. A downside to the procedure is that the process is only temporary and that without a regular repeat of the life sucking electric bath the recipient will harden and pretty much "turn to stone". As it's been discovered that young females (imagine that !) work best, we've ended up at the school for delinquent girls with the back story being discovered via a handily procured diary (that makes some references to alchemy & the Count St. Germain).

   The gaunt & cadaverous Eric makes periodic appearances carrying off hapless female victims and once even breaking in on dorm room full of them. Like most movies of this ilk it drags a bit during the "investigating" portion of the movie, but the script is fashioned with enough female abductions every so often to keep ones interest and somewhat flat direction by László Kardos (credited here as  Leslie Kardos) is offset by Benjamin Kline's moody cinematography which is shown to great effect in the closing shot with the nightgown clad women standing silently watching as the scientist's laboratory/house burns.



  1. I always enjoy movies like this - because if for no other reason they remind of watching Chiller Theater as a kid - even if the movie in question wasn't one I watched back in the day. Thanks for the heads up on this one!

    1. I too love these things - you said it Sat afternoon and watching this stuff as a kid. Where I grew up (Detroit) we had Creature Features.