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Subj: Creature Feature 19: Murders In The Rue Morgue(1932)
Posted: Mon Sep 29, 2014 at 06:18:36 pm EDT (Viewed 181 times)
My plan was to watch and review some of the best Universal horror movies of the 1930's and 40's in the weeks leading up to Halloween, but I'm having a hard time finding them online for free. Therefore, I've decided to either dig out my old VHS tapes, or watch some of the lesser known classics from the period, like this one:
One year after his iconic role as Dracula, Bela Lugosi was brought back by Universal Studios and Carl Laemmle to star as a mad doctor in a loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's 1841 Murders In The Rue Morgue. Cinematographer Karl Freund returned as well and brought an expressionistic feel to 1845 Paris with his shadowy sets and creepy backgrounds. The result is an uneven movie with a large ape and a magnificent performance by Lugosi.
Mad scientist Dr. Mirakle has been abducting young women in order to mix their blood with ape blood in the hopes of finding a mate for his sideshow ape. He sets his eyes on a young woman, Camille, who is dating Pierre Dupin, a medical student and amateur detective, who becomes leery of Mirakle. While investigating the murders of three other women, Dupin comes to realize that Mirakle is the murderer and starts to fear for his girl. He's too late to save Camille as Mirakle sends the ape to kidnap her, killing her mother in the process and stuffing her body up the chimney. Dupin is eventually able to convince the police that an ape is the kidnapper, which leads to a climactic chase on the rooftops of Paris.
I know that I saw this movie back in my teen years, as I went through period of watching old classics, especially of the horror and mystery genre. My memories of it were extremely vague, though. I remember liking it, but not as much as The Black Cat or The Raven. I also remember reading Poe's original story, though not since high school. The ape, called an ourang-outang in Poe's story, switches back and forth from a real ape, most likely a large chimp, to a man in a suit, which weakens it's effectiveness on the viewer. The real horror comes from Lugosi, whose insane obsession really comes through in his performance. This paired with the creepy setting makes up for the rather poor performance of the hero and the ape. I found the comic relief to be a bit humorous, and the understated themes of Mirakle attacking prostitutes and Mirakle being a student of evolution a mere 6 years after the Scopes trial to be very interesting in this pre-code film.
The most memorable moment is easily Mirakle's experimenting on a prostitute, tied to a large wooden X, and then discarding her as so much trash after she dies.Â This was really disturbing.Â In Lugosi's later years, he would play a cliched version of this type of character often, but he was never more effective.
When Mirakle first abducts the prostitute.Â The girl is horrified as her two "suitors" engage in a knife fight over her, which results in both of their deaths.Â Mirakle moves right in, like a predator seeing an injured prey,Â and takes advantage, in the shadowy Paris night.
The discovery of Camille's mother in the chimney, her head hanging down.Â I remembered the description in the short story of the strength that would be required to force a human body up into the small space of the chimney.
The ape moving across the rooftops with Camille in his arms.Â Though, I admit, the ending of the film is not as strong as the beginning.Â
According to wikipedia, 20 minutes were cut from this movie for being too violent.Â Based on what was in the film, and it being pre-code, I would love to see what these were like.Â I don't know if they were ever released.
According to IMDB, Noble Johnson, an African American actor who appeared in white-face as Lugosi's henchman, also appeared in The Most Dangerous Game, The Mummy, King Kong and The Son Of Kong.
The 1942 film The Mystery Of Marie Roget,Â which Poe wrote as a sequel to The Murders In The Rue Morgue, was not a sequel to the 1932 film, though the detective shares a similar name.
You can watch it here:
Murders In The Rue Morgue
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