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Film / The Corpse Vanishes

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The Corpse Vanishes is a 1942 film directed by Wallace Fox.

Intrepid Reporter Patricia Hunter is following the case of the Vanishing Brides, where dozens of young brides have suddenly been struck dead at the altar and their bodies mysteriously vanish en route to the morgue. The idiotic photographer who accompanies Patricia happens to find the flower given to one bride shortly before she walked down the aisle; it is an orchid that has the effect of putting anyone who inhales its scent into a comatose, death-like state, but no one knows where the flower might have come from.

Following this lead, Patricia goes to visit a local botanist, Dr. Lorenz (Bela Lugosi), to see if he can shed any light on the situation. In the process she meets Lorenz's beautiful but hostile wife and his equally sinister house servants (as well as good-guy home town Dr. Foster) and begins to suspect that Dr. Lorenz may have more to do with the brides' deaths than just a flower...


For the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version, please go to the episode recap page.


  • Asshole Victim: The film introduces us to Countess Lorenz suffering from her "illness"; but just as we begin to feel sympathy for her plight, she shows herself to be more than a willing accomplice in her husband's amoral activities. She even slaps Patricia for absolutely no reason upon first meeting her, just to up her bitch quotient.
  • The Bluebeard: We see a variant of the trope in this movie. About halfway through, Patricia, while snooping around Dr. Lorenz's mansion, discovers a morgue in which the dead bodies of the brides, still dressed in their wedding gowns, are being kept; she opens several drawers to reveal the surprisingly well-preserved bodies. It's never disclosed exactly how the unfortunate young ladies, who were actually still alive though in a comatose state upon arrival at Lorenz's lair, were killed. An alternative interpretation suggested by some fans and reviewers is that the brides are not, in fact, actually dead, just still unconscious — which explains why, after presumably having spent weeks in the morgue drawers, they're still in perfect condition — and are all revived offscreen after the movie ends.
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  • Bodybag Trick: Dr. Lorenz pretends to be a corpse and lies in a coffin atop one of the brides to conceal her when the police search the hearse.
  • Conviction by Counterfactual Clue: One of the clues that leads Patricia to Dr. Lorenz is that the dead brides all wear corsages made from an orchid with a distinctive smell. The implication is that orchids with a smell are unusual. Apparently the screenwriters have never heard of vanilla.note 
  • Cosmic Deadline: Dr. Foster proposes to Patricia during the phony wedding ploy. The film doesn't say how long it takes them to implement this ploy, but it was suggested one whole day after the two of them met.
    Patricia: Looks just like a real wedding, doesn't it?
    Foster: Too bad it isn't... ours.
  • The Dog Bites Back: No, Bela, you should not strangle a mentally handicapped man and then leave his diminutive brother to die by police shooting; their mother will not take this well.
  • Fainting: Patricia does this a lot.
  • Fountain of Youth: What Dr. Lorenz is creating from the juices he extracts from the "dead" brides, for the sake of his withering wife. Can't reach the naipe, apparently.
  • I Love the Dead: Implied: After Patricia discovers the brides' bodies in Lorenz's morgue, she hides while Lorenz's Igor-like assistant comes in, spots the lovely corpses (assuming they're actually corpses — see The Bluebeard entry above), and caresses one of them. Unfortunately for him, Lorenz comes in at that point and is not at all pleased, plying his whip to send the assistant fleeing.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Is what Patricia wants to be. In reality, she's more a "society gossip" reporter, i.e., weddings/engagements, who visited whom, etc. Ironically, this puts her in perfect position to get hot on the trail of the "bride killer", and her editor gives her rein to do so.
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: When Patricia and Dr. Foster arrive at Dr. Lorez's mansion, he is playing a dirge-like rendition of "Ave Maria" on a pipe organ for his very peculiar household.
  • Omnidisciplinary Scientist: Dr. Foster explicitly states that Dr. Lorenz's skills are wide-ranging; he is not only a botanist (specializing in poisonous orchids), but also a medical doctor, and possibly a psychologist and hypnotist as well.
  • A Taste of the Lash: Dr. Lorenz use a whip to discipline his hunchbacked assistant Mike when he catches Mike interfering with the corpses of the brides in the crypt.
  • Tempting Fate: Practically every word out of the second bride's mouth.
  • Too Dumb to Live: A series of brides fall over dead at the altar. Do other soon-to-be brides postpone their own weddings until a cause is figured out? No, they just go along as planned and add their names to the list of victims.