Thankfully, graceful beauty Elizabeth Russell (1916-2012) was much better at magnetism than me. Enacting a series of emotionally troubled, occasionally murderous dames in low budget genre films in the 40s, Russell often brought haughty imperviousness to mystical heights. Historically, her work at RKO, Universal and Monogram brought her into performance-contact with the monstrously popular Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney, Jr., as well.One of Russell’s biggest roles was in 1942’s The Corpse Vanishes. Portraying Lugosi’s evilly aging wife, Russell radiates with poisonous intentions. When she isn’t busy slapping heroine Luana Walters in the face, she spends her time encouraging Lugosi to drain young brides of their blood for their rejuvenating effects.
Weird Woman and Curse of the Cat People (both 1944) showed her off to vengeful effect, as well. But in each of these roles, Russell provides moments of true heart, bringing out these characters’ inherent emotional agony.1943’s The 7th Victim, meanwhile, allowed her to show off a broad variety of her skills. As Mimi, a victim of agoraphobia, she withers with cautious fear. But as another character chooses to end her life, Mimi emerges from her shell. With quiet optimism, Russell grandly provides this spooky tale with its haunting denouement.
Nicely, as Karloff’s gin loving niece, Mistress Sims, in 1946’s Bedlam, Russell was able to prove her comic worth, too. With arch sauciness, she provides a number of comic interludes, easing the gravity of the film’s asylum based horror and proving, beyond a doubt, that she is one of classic horror’s unsung femmes.
Until the next time – SWEET love and pink GRUE, Big Gay Horror Fan!