For Reel

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
July 7, 2012, 6:48 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Robert Florey

Universal had planned to follow up the great success of Dracula with an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, attaching director Robert Florey and the newly bankable Bela Lugosi to the project. Those plans, of course, fell through once James Whale came on board and Lugosi, disinterested in playing the monster, was replaced by Boris Karloff. As a result, Florey and Lugosi would instead be paired in the third of Universal’s cycle of horror films in the early 1930s, an adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. Shot by Karl Freund – he of The Last Laugh, Metropolis, and Dracula – the picture has a moody atmosphere going for it and little else. When the sinister Doctor Mirakle emerges from the fog to lay claim over a lady of the night, one recalls the more effectively chilling horror staples of the time. A man in an ape costume quickly ruins that idealism. The action scenes are performed by a man in a relatively convincing costume, but for the reaction shots, Florey cuts to an image of a real ape looking sometimes despondent, other times mildly annoyed. Sidney Fox is not quite magnetic enough to sell the fear – consider, by comparison, how effective Miriam Hopkins was in a similar role in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde – and, as the hero, Leon Ames is a dud. While there may be some interest in discussing the film’s ideology (horror by way of the creationist point-of-view), it barely sustains itself as a mild curiosity.

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