Sunday, October 21, 2007

For Hallowe'en: A Forgotten Horror Star, Part One

During the Hallowe'en season most of us see more horror movies than at other times of the year. So how lucky I was to hear about a forgotten horror movie star who made some noteworthy films, and who worked with stars like Bela Lugosi and Vincent Price!

His name was Laszlo Revik.

A friend, the screenwriter and documentary filmmaker Ted Newsom, wrote me a while back to tell me about the oddball circumstances that led him to find out about Revik.

He even told me that the guy is noted in the (old) Scarecrow Press book The World’s Horror Stars. Sure enough, when I checked my copy, there was an entry on him, right between the entry "QUARRY, ROBERT" and "ROBLES, GERMAN":

"REVIK, LASZLO (1900?-1975) Czech genre specialist; played the evil alchemist “Dr. Ghoul” in 10 of his 13 films, all unseen in US...."

Unseen in the U.S. or not, how could something like this be so far under the radar for so long? Wow.

First, I want to share some of the e-mail messages Ted has sent me. (Some of it IS kinda candid, but I have his permission-- even though he says "Why do I make trouble for myself, Maxie? Aw, go ahead and run whatever you want.") So here's an excerpt from his first letter where he shared discovering this Laszlo Revik:

Speaking of weird experiences—sheesh. How I get lucky and get dragged into these things, I don’t know. If I made this stuff up, nobody’d ever believe it. But anyway, I believe it, because I know the guy in the middle of it.

Did I ever mention my friend "Sam" the wanna-be before? Nice guy, a real go-getter, except he runs around in circles even more than I do. (I’ll call him "Sam Lee" for now, because that’s close enough.) So Sam calls the other day and is REALLY cagey. He’s like a puppy dog sometimes, so transparent. Finally, after several minutes of flattery, he got around to asking, “Since you know everything about all those old horror movies, tell me all about Laszlo Revik.”

Hell, I never said I knew EVERYthing, just way too much for my own good, like most of us. Anyway, this was a new one on me. I’d never heard of Lazslo Revik. Had you?

Well, Sam told me he’d lucked into a deal where he bought the rights to a baker’s dozen old movies, starring this guy Revik. Said the guy worked with Lugosi, Karloff and Price.

Knowing Sam and his flaky history, I asked how he swung the deal. He said, “A European agent just picked my name out of a hat.” "Yeah, right, Sam, just like McDougall in ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN." Sam didn’t get the joke.

Sam said, “Oh, there’s money in this one! I’ve got a producer interested and we’re going to do a big video deal.” (I would’ve done it for him, but I’m past the point that I’m going to work for free.) So he’s had our mutual friend Jeff Richards working on researching this Laszlo Revik guy. You know Jeff, and you know the obscure stuff Jeff can find. So far he’s only come up with one reference, in an OOP encyclopedia of horror actors. I’ve sent the page along for you, in case you can come up with any other ideas or leads.

Here is a link to Ted's scan (at Imageshack) of the page from The World’s Horror Stars:

Ted went on:

Jeff and I talked about it—he’s young, but he’s movie hip. He pointed out there is still a lot of esoterica none of us knew, or even suspected, which is true enough. Like the fact that Boris Karloff was supposed to play the Frankenstein Monster in SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY in 1946. I mean, who would’ve known, 55 years after the fact? But a photograph of Karloff in the make-up shows up, someone else finds a letter of authorization from Universal to Samuel Goldwyn Studios, and voila, a new little piece of movie history. But that’s a little tidbit. We’re talking here about a guy who made more than a dozen movies from the mid-1940s all the way up to the 1970s exploitation era, and nobody’s ever heard of him.

And then Jeff says—damn him for being clear-headed—who ever heard of Coffin Joe before about fifteen years ago? Outside of Mexico, how many people know who German Robles is? (Except my pal Max, of course, you lucky devil. Wish I could’ve met him.) Outside the tight little horror-buff community, who could describe what Tod Slaughter looks like? Okay, so maybe this Czech monster-man was overlooked.

Even so, according to this one reference, Revik made films over here, not just in Europe—and with major people (well, major to us, anyway). And still there’s no record of the movies, very few mentions of them or reviews in the trades or anything like that. I couldn’t find any reference to him on the ‘net.

Looking around on the internet for several days, I did find a poster of one of Revik's last films, FRIGHTMARE FREAKOUT-- but there was no mention of Revik! And now the site is gone!:

But the story gets even weirder. More on that in Part Two.

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