Based on the work from the mind of legendary Gothic Horror novelist Edgar Allan Poe…
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Sydney Fox
Directed by: Robert Florey
Rating: Internet Movie Data Base; 6.4/10 …Rotten Tomatoes; 83%
Our Rating; 8/10
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932). Paris-1845. Two couples are at a fair enjoying the carnival atmosphere of exotic Arab dancers, savage redskin Apache’s and the usual fairground excitement and attractions.
Pierre Dupin, a young medical student , his fiancée Camille and their friends, eventually come across the exhibition of a large African gorilla named ‘Eric’ and are persuaded to enter the tent and witness the show.
It’s here that Bela Lugosi makes another iconic appearance as ‘Dr. Mirakle’.
One of Lugosi’s Best Roles
He’s up on stage regaling the audience with what they will and will not be seeing. Lugosi seems really at home in this movie, especially in this first sequence up on stage. Spending several years as a stage performer, it’s little wonder it seems so natural to him.
This early scene on stage, Lugosi’s commanding presence along with the powerful dialogue and subject of evolution being described, is really engaging. There’s a touch of humor too, in the way Dr. Mirakle translates what Eric is “saying”.
Soon after the show both Eric and Mirakle take a liking to one of the ladies (Camille) and endeavor to find out where she lives.
Shortly after, somewhere in the foggy streets of Paris there’s a knife fight between two men apparently over the affections of a woman of the night. This poor girl, now being alone is approached and taken away by Mirakle to become the victim of his insane experimental ideas on evolution.
Very Disturbing for the Time…
Tied to a cross within Mirakle’s lair, her screams sound dreadful. Very unnerving stuff for the time.
This film was another which was made before the onset of the Production Code two years later, which is why the film contains such graphic imagery and concepts.
Mirakle is taking a blood sample from the victims arm with a scalpel as he tells her she’s to be the bride of science!
The suggestion of prostitution, the sadistic binding and torture of a female victim and the intended mating of a woman with an ape was, and is…pretty vulgar!
The blood sample is intended to be mixed with that of the ape’s to determine if a suitable mate has been found. Under microscope, Mirakle discovers the blood is supposedly rotten… “Black!”, he say’s, “Like your sins!”
It’s all too much for the poor girl as she dies through sheer terror. Her body is let fall through a trap door and into the river below.
Meantime, Pierre is trying to detect the cause of death of several bodies recently being found in the river. After obtaining blood samples from the victims, he discovers a foreign substance present in all three.
He begins to focus his thoughts on the strange sideshow ‘charlatan’ he remembers, who stated he was going to mix ape blood with that of a human!
A Strange Visit
Dr. Mirakle has tracked down the residence of the lovely Camille and calls on her after he’s sure her sweetheart, Pierre has left.
Asking to be allowed to come in he’s refused. He tries to induce her to go with him in his carriage…to a café, to talk. “Impossible!” she tells him. Then he explains that Eric has a message for her…that he talks only of her and cannot forget her.
With eyes aglow, leaning into her apartment and attempting to use all of the hypnotic emphasis he can muster, says, “There’s something which you must know.” At which point Camille asks, “Are you insane Monsieur?!?” and abruptly closes the door on him!
A funny scene. It seems to make light of the ridiculousness of Mirakle’s intentions. Lugosi almost appears personally offended by it!
Worse Date Ever!
Waiting in the carriage below is the ape in question. He’s sent by his master to scale a drainpipe and enter the apartment of Camille and her mother. There follows another questionable looking scene with Eric doing who-knows-what with his victim, then proceeding to carry out his master’s instructions.
The end is a brilliantly filmed and suspenseful episode as the camera follows Eric and his ‘prize’ high above the screaming crowd, along the Parisian rooftops.
While not an exact adaptation of Poe’s story, the film is a success in it’s own right. Legendary Cinematographer, Karl Freund who was also responsible for Metropolis and Dracula the year before, is at the top of his game here.
Scene framing, lighting and zoom, all create exciting and quality effect. The influence of Freund’s Expressionistic style is present and helps make the movie very interesting overall.
Lugosi’s performance is great and while other’s may be a little critical of the other actors’ work, I don’t find any major issue with them.
The ape’s performance on the other hand is disappointing. Eric switches between being a gorilla to a guy in a costume to a chimpanzee whenever it suites him. This rather crude or hastened attempt at special effects isn’t too much of a problem, though a little disappointing.
With an element of humor throughout, this film finds a clever balance with controversial/alarming subject matter, while not taking itself too seriously.
What did you think about this review of Murders in the Rue Morgue..? Please let me know if you’ve seen the movie and agree with the above. You’ll find a space available below for comments…Thanks very much for visiting.