Format: Amazon Watch Party
Director: Erle C. Kenton
I'd seen this before and couldn't really remember it. But when I saw "Hunchback" on the poster, I was like "oh, yeah. This one."
Dracula (John Carradine) goes to a Dr. Edelman trying to figure out if he can be "cured". Edelman being a movie scientist/ doctor is like "why not?" The same day, frikkin' Larry Talbot shows up *also* looking to be cured of being the Wolfman. And in the cave below the house? Frankenstein's monster. Because why not?
Whether Drac was serious or not about his cure and whether he was overwhelmed by his own innate evil or not is never explained as he throws the plan out the window to get un-vamped in exchange for trying to turn one of the two nurses into a new bride. Along the way, Dracula turns the doctor into a sort of quasi-vampire. Shenanigans ensue.
We have to talk about Nina.
Look, this whole movie is not about Nina, but she's in, like, 1/3rd to 1/2 of the shots the movie. And I do not know why. She's set up as a major character, but is not. She's just... there.
Nina (Jane Adams), the dutiful nurse to Dr. Edelmann, is the poster-specified a hunchback, which is mentioned like once, but otherwise goes unremarked upon. So she's, visually, always there in bright white nurse-gear and trying to be helpful and has an obvious difference.
Actress Jane Adams was not a hunchback, and whatever prosthetic they put on her seemed to really bend her over and make her arms hang a certain way. The character has not a negative bone in her body. She's sweet and helpful and literally everything points to things working out well for Nina. Like, they introduce a potential cure for Nina's bone difference - which she gives up to help the frikkin' Wolfman instead. That's Nina! Always helpful.
But at the movie's climax, Nina is just thrown in a pit to her death as a bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time. Which... weird flex to suddenly go dark in a movie that feels very much aimed at kids.
I have no ideas or no theories as to what happened here. Was there supposed to be another fate for Nina? Was Nina always doomed? Was she accidentally in more of the movie than they intended thus drawing focus? Why take a super cute actress and suggest she needs work and then bump her off with her storyline unresolved?
It's a mystery wrapped in an enigma and smothered in secret sauce. But what reading I did do tells me that this movie was on a conveyor belt through pre-production to post-production and while Adams had a swell time working on it, the veteran actors were less than impressed with the industrial approach to movie making that they compared to how TV would be made in a few short years.
Anyway - Nina going down into the pit will now haunt me forever.
Adams' career in film and TV was not terribly long. She showed up in 1942 and sort of petered out in the 1950's, finishing with an appearance on The Adventures of Superman in 1953. It looks like she did a lot of B's, monster and cowboy movies. She was kind of short for Hollywood, I guess, at 5'3" (which doesn't seem that short), but she attributed that to how she wound up in less than glam-girl roles.
We think she's peachy.
So here's Jane Adams without her prosthetic. Lovely girl. Not exactly in the Dwight Fry in weird make-up mode.