Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

“My life is consecrated to a great experiment: I tell you I will prove your kinship with the ape!”

Synopsis:
When mad Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi) plots to kidnap beautiful young Camille (Sidney Fox) and “mingle” her blood with that of his giant ape, Erik (Charles Gemora), it’s up to Camille’s boyfriend, a medical student named Pierre (Leon Ames), to save the day.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary seems less than enamored with this unusual Universal horror flick, based in-name-only on a short story by Edgar Allan Poe. While acknowledging the power of Karl Freund’s “expressionistic photography”, he barely touches upon the film’s remarkably risque premise (the “perverse sexuality… implicit in Dr. Mirakle’s work”), a topic discussed in much greater detail in DVD Savant’s review (see link below). While I agree that the film possesses some egregious flaws (the alternating use of a chimpanzee and a man in an ape suit to play Erik is especially noticeable), I disagree with Peary that some of the most powerful scenes — such as “Lugosi draining the blood from a streetwalker” — are “tasteless”. As noted by DVD Savant, Murders in the Rue Morgue may be a bit of a mess, but it’s nonetheless a “hugely enjoyable” one.

P.S. Many have pointed out this film’s visual similarities to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920), and the association is apt.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Expressionistic set designs
    Lab
  • Countless memorable images
    Cinematography
  • Karl Freund’s atmospheric, shadow-filled cinematography
    Shadows
  • A remarkably risque premise
    Gorilla

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended.

Links:

One Response to “Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)”

  1. A must – for its place in cinema history.

    It would be interesting to know why so many American horror films of this period run just an hour in length (thus, robbing them of things like character development; esp. noticeable in 1934’s ‘The Black Cat’). Even the two biggies of the time – ‘Dracula’ and ‘Frankenstein’ – only run slightly longer. [An exception is the feature-length ‘King Kong’, which ‘Rue Morgue’ ushered in, in a significant way, and is actually combined with ‘adventure film’.] Were horror films held in less regard by studio heads? Was it thought that the horror was the point, so show it and be done with it? Was it deemed necessary to keep them short for the sake of the squeamish? One can only speculate.

    This film – which, like several others of its day, seems to have met with some severe editing – does have some flaws (to me, the biggest being yet another sappy love angle – some of that dialogue: eek!), but it remains a worthy enough entry, and ffs can gain much enjoyment from the film for what it does achieve. (Apparently it was out of circulation for a considerable period; I’ve only just caught up with it now.)

    Much has been said re: DP Freund’s work (which is truly stunning) as well as the influence of ‘…Dr. Caligari’ (and that does show). Added to that, however is the front-and-center production design/art direction. It all feels believably Parisian, as opposed to a Hollywood version of Paris. (Director Robert Florey was French.)

    The creepy moments that arise are genuinely creepy. Which brings us to Lugosi. His performance here is one that’s less talked about. Those ffs who mainly know Lugosi from ‘Dracula’ or the infamous Ed Wood films, would do well to seek out more of his respectable work in films like this one.

    Sidenote: I had no idea who star Sidney Fox was. Seems she had something of a troubled career and personal life – and overdosed at 34.

    Other note: John Huston had a hand in the script. I can’t swear to this, but this instance would seem his work: a morgue attendant asks a man various questions about a corpse the man brings in; including –

    Attendant: Profession?
    Man: (pause, smile) …Yes.

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