It should have been the happiest day of her life, but yet another bride has keeled over at the altar, apparently dead, and when the truck from the morgue has arrived to escort the corpse away - the body vanishes! Someone is posing as attendants from the morgue and stealing these young women's lifeless bodies, but why? Ace reporter Pat Hunter (Luana Walters) is on the case, sensing a great story for her newspaper, and when another society wedding takes place, she is there with her photographer. Sure enough, the bride collapses! It's happening again!
And when you see the all too familiar visage of Bela Lugosi in the back of that supposed morgue van, you know pretty much immediately what's up. Yes, he's up to his old tricks in this Monogram B-movie, using a poisoned orchid to conk the young women out in the belief that they have been sent by their fiancés. When they get a whiff of that distinctive odour, it's only a matter of minutes before they are out for the count (but not the Count, there's no vampirism this time around).
The Corpse Vanishes is a lot like a primitive episode of Columbo in that we know that Lugosi's evil botanist Dr Lorenz is the villain, and Pat is fairly certain as well, but he has to be caught out before his nefarious schemes can be brought to an end. What he needs the women for is to drain their bodily fluids with a big syringe and after creating a serum with it, injecting the result into his wife, played by regular Val Lewton character actress Elizabeth Russell, thereby rejuvenating her.
The Countess Lorenz, we are told, is actually in her seventies but looks younger thanks to her husband's efforts, but the cost comes with the pain of the serum wearing off. Pat manages to invite herself into the home of the bad doctor, along with a good doctor, Foster (King of the Rocket Men himself, Tristram Coffin), who assists her in her snooping although he's supposed to be there to help out Lorenz. Having to spend the night in Lorenz's labyrinthine home thanks to a thunderstorm outside, Pat is then subjected to sinister goings-on.
Are her bodily fluids at risk? The way Dr Lorenz looms out of the shadows and leers at her suggests so. Although incredibly creaky and cheap, as was par for the course with movies from this studio, it's really quite fun, with the mad doctor's crew of menacing types present to help him out including little Angelo Rossitto and an idiot brute who Lorenz threatens to "destroy" - honestly, the way people treat each other in this film is appalling. Fortunately, Pat and Foster know the value of decency, although Pat's drive for a good story seems to have made her somewhat insensitive, and a trap to foil the doctor once and for all is sent into jeopardy for the finale. Barely an hour long, The Corpse Vanishes doesn't hang about, but Poverty Row horror quickies like this can be habit forming, and with this you can see why. Plus Lorenz and his missus sleep in matching coffins - it's horror gold, I tell you.