Paris...at the turn of the century. Inspector Vidocq investigates a series of unexplained murders at a Grand Guignol-type theatre...where the players have suddenly become real-life victims. Based on the story by Edgar Allan Poe.
In 19th Century Paris, the maniacal Dr. Mirakle abducts young women and injects them with ape blood in an attempt to prove ape-human kinship. He constantly meets failure as the abducted women die. Medical student Pierre Dupin discovers what Mirakle is doing too late to prevent the abduction of his girlfriend Camille. Now he desperately tries to enlist the help of the police to get her back. Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
It's a bearable film. It has some nice atmospheric effects due to Karl Freund. The scene of the duel between Arlene Francis' two "Johns" or lovers or whatever is stylized to look like two men slowly draining each other of life, until they stab each other to death. But such moments are rare ones. The screenplay is horrible. And that does not mean that it is horrible in the sense that it will benefit a "horror" film.
Edgar Allen Poe, like most 19th Century writers, constructed his stories to be read - he was good at descriptions, but he was better at mood, particularly by his brilliant ear for words and language. Like in his short story "THE TELL-TALE HEART", where he makes the words force the reader into hearing the beat of a hidden heart. His story THE MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE was the first of a trilogy about an amateur reasoner who aids the police (a prototype for Sherlock Holmes) named C. Auguste Dupin. The tales were Poe's way of showing off his high intellect by inventing his version of Conan Doyle's "deductive reasoning" ("ratiocination").
I won't go into the exact plot, except that it does deal with murders carried out by a non-human agent. It has nothing to do with Pre-Darwinian evolutionary crap, like that supposedly being pursued by Bela Lugosi's "Dr. Mirakle" (a name stolen from E.T.A. Hoffman's odd tales, or at least from the Offenbach opera). As such, although it would be really hard to believe such a tragedy could happen in a suburb of a major city, it is a fascinating story. But most of Poe's best stories are just that, fascinating.
Aside from Freund's cinematography, Lugosi's acting (it is one of his best roles actually), and some curiosity about the fake gorilla, there is not much going for this film. Leon Waycoff (as pointed out on this thread) later achieved acting success in less heated roles at MGM like in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and YOLANDA AND THE THIEF. But he was Leon Ames then, and as such he is remembered. Sidney Fox was pushed in the early talkie period, but petered out, and died a forgotten suicide in 1945. Oddly enough, if you are into criminal history, her name has a sinister position. A young man named Sidney Fox murdered his mother in an English hotel in 1930, trying to cover it up as death by misadventure in a fire. For every true crime fan who recalls that Sidney Fox there are not that many film fans who recall the other one.
Finally a comment about the director. Robert Florey had a long career in film and movie direction, and is best recalled for being the director of the first Marx Brother comedy (or co-director) THE COCOANUTS. Groucho was dismissive of Florey, because he was French and seemed at sea dealing with the brothers, but their first film is among their best - and dealing with Groucho and his three siblings was quite difficult. Even Leo McCarey had problems with them. In the early sound period, Florey appears to have directed some of the French language movies that came out of Hollywood. Even someone with a language problem could be still useful. Unfortunately, whatever strengths Florey developed as a director are not obvious from this film.
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