Devil Commands, The (1941)

“Your mother is not dead – not really. She’s come back to me!”

Devil Commands Poster

Synopsis:
A scientist (Boris Karloff) mourning the loss of his beloved wife (Shirley Warde) enlists the help of a corrupt “medium” (Anne Revere) in making contact with Warde through brainwave technology.

Genres:

Review:
Boris Karloff starred in numerous B-level “mad doctor” flicks during the 1930s/1940s, five of which are listed in GFTFF (see here, here, here, and here for my other reviews). This title — part of a five-film “Karloff series” produced by Columbia Pictures — is, comparatively speaking, one of the best, thanks to a compelling rationale behind Karloff’s obsessive quest: his love for his dead wife (convincingly played by Shirley Warde in just a few minutes of early screentime). Also lifting the film a notch above average is a strong performance by Anne Revere, playing a quietly psychopathic “medium” whose love of money overrides all other concerns, even her own safety. Other elements of the quickie screenplay (just over an hour long) feel somewhat conventional, but there’s certainly enough here — including a typically committed performance by Karloff, and atmospheric cinematography — to recommend this one for fans of the genre.

Note: Read Pop Matters’ review of this film for an insightful analysis of how its themes fit within broader cultural concerns of its era.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Anne Revere as Blanche Walters
    Devil Commands Revere
  • Atmospheric cinematography
    Devil Commands Cinematography1
    Devil Commands Cinematography2
    Devil Commands Cinematography3

Must See?
No, though it’s certainly recommended for Karloff fans.

Links:

One Response to “Devil Commands, The (1941)”

  1. First viewing. Not must-see.

    Slow-moving, uninvolving and teetering on silly, ‘TDC’ is also occasionally unintentionally funny. The screenplay indicates tedium early on – and continues laying tell-tale bread crumbs along the way that remind us we’re watching gobbledygook. That would be fine if it were at least fun in some way. Director Edward Dmytryk is capable of fine work (elsewhere) but he’s up against the mediocre script. Karloff doesn’t add much outside of himself on auto-pilot, but Revere does manage to cut an imposing figure – even if her performance isn’t enough to carry the film.

    Personally, I find the film’s title misleading…or, let’s say it’s a real stretch.

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