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Want cinematic chills? Go for the golden oldies

Does anyone out there remember the great old movie teams?

Not just the formal comedy teams that featured a straight man and a comic, like Laurel & Hardy or Abbott & Costello or Martin & Lewis. And not just the informal comedy teams, such as Hope & Crosby or Lemmon & Matthau.There were quite a few movies that paired players repeatedly because they demonstrated incredible chemistry together, ranging from the romantic comedies of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy (or Hepburn and Cary Grant) to Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as, arguably, the definitive big-screen Holmes & Watson.

The list is quite long and includes Bogie & Bacall, Astaire & Rogers, William Powell & Myrna Loy, Nelson Eddy & Jeanette MacDonald, Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland, and later, Richard Burton & Elizabeth Taylor.

Who do we have today? Tom Cruise & Nicole Kidman? Chris Farley & David Spade?

It's just not the same.

Another classic pairing from Hollywood's "Golden Age" is Karloff and Lugosi. That's right, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi, maybe the greatest horror team in cinematic history.

In terms of characters, one could make a case that all the teamings of Frankenstein and Dracula and the Wolf Man in various combinations in movies like "House of Frankenstein" and "House of Dracula," etc., could rival Karloffand Lugosi's films together. Or that when Jason Voorhees of the "Friday the 13th" movies and Freddy Krueger of the "Nightmare on Elm Street" pictures finally collide next year, they might be contenders to the title.

But Karloff and Lugosi made no fewer than six movies together from 1934 to 1945, and some are among their best work.

If you're looking for something a little different to watch over Halloween, any of these black-and-white oldies might fit the bill:

- "The Black Cat" (1934) is their first film together, and perhaps the best of their pairings. Karloff plays a devil worshiper and Lugosi is the good guy out to expose Karloff for personal reasons. The weird production design is particularly notable, and the wacky plot involves betrayal, revenge and skinning people alive. Remarkably strong fare, despite its age; not for little children. (And no relation to the Edgar Allan Poe story.)

- "The Raven" (1935) is also quite good, a more conventional horror yarn with Lugosi as an insane surgeon who is obsessed with Poe stories, and who has a bevy of torture devices in his basement. The plot has Lugosi taking in criminal-on-the-run Karloff and turning him into a pitiable, deformed creature. But ultimately, Karloff becomes the hero, foiling Lugosi's evil plans and going after him with his own "Pit and the Pendulum" device. (An early videotape released by Universal Home Video includes both "The Black Cat" and "The Raven" as a double-bill.)

- "The Invisible Ray" (1936) casts Karloff as a scientist who is contaminated by a mysterious glowing space rock in Africa, which gives him the "touch of death." When he goes bonkers and starts "touching" people, Lugosi tries to stop him. The so-so script is bolstered by the presence of the stars, along with better-than-average special effects.

- "Son of Frankenstein" (1939) is a terrific entry in the classic series and belongs right up there with "Frankenstein" and "Bride of Frankenstein" to round out the '30s trilogy. Notable also as the last time Karloff would play the monster and the first time Lugosi would play broken-necked shepherd Igor (which he reprised for "The Ghost of Frankenstein"). Basil Rathbone is the title character.

- "Black Friday" (1940) stars Karloff as a mad scientist who puts the brain of a mobster into the head of a college professor (Stanley Ridge). When the criminal's nasty tendencies surface, the professor goes after a gangster rival (Lugosi). Fairly effective little B-movie, though Karloff and Lugosi have no scenes together.

- "The Body Snatcher" (1945) is Karloff and Lugosi's final film together and it demonstrates their onscreen chemistry in several sinister scenes. And while the film is an excellent chiller all the way, boasting several fine performances, Karloff is a standout in the role of a grave-robber who provides bodies for a doctor's illegal medical experiments. Henry Dan-iell is also fine as the doctor.

So, forget about R-rated slasher movies. They're all the same. Instead, go for a golden oldie.

After all, Halloween is the season for chills, not gore galore.

- SQUEALS ON WHEELS: Have you seen the ads for the USA cable channel's "Trucks," a new movie airing on Wednesday? It's being touted as an "original" made-for-TV flick based on a Stephen King short story.

Well, it's only "original" if you don't know it's a remake.

How about that awful 1986 movie called "Maximum Overdrive," with Emilio Estevez? It was based on the same story.

And get this - King wrote and directed it himself!

Timothy Busfield stars in "Trucks" and King apparently had nothing to do with this one.

But that doesn't mean it will be any better a movie.

- QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Morgan Freeman, of "Kiss the Girls," about movie violence:

"It's not the violence. We'll always have violence. Back in the old days, you knew the crooks were going to pay. Now you don't know who the crooks are."