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The Devil Commands (1941)

Approved | | Horror, Sci-Fi | 3 February 1941 (USA)
Scientist becomes obsessed with the idea of communicating with his dead wife.

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(screenplay) (as Robert D. Andrews), (screenplay)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
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Karl (as Ralph Penney)
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Mrs. Marcy
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Seth Marcy
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Sheriff Ed Willis
Shirley Warde ...
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Storyline

Dr. Julian Blair is engaged in unconventional research on human brain waves when his wife is tragically killed in a freak auto accident. The grief-stricken scientist becomes obsessed with redirecting his work into making contact with the dead and is not deterred by dire warnings from his daughter, his research assistant, or his colleagues that he is delving into forbidden areas of knowledge. He moves his laboratory to an isolated New England mansion where he continues to try to reach out to his dead wife. He is aided by his mentally-challenged servant Karl and abetted by the obsessive Mrs. Walters, a phony medium, who seems to exert a sinister influence over him. When their overly curious housekeeper discovers the truth about their experiments, her death brings the local sheriff in to investigate. Written by Gabe Taverney (duke1029@aol.com)

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

KARLOFF TURNS KILLER IN A HORROR-CRAMMED THRILLER! (original 11x14 title card) See more »

Genres:

Horror | Sci-Fi

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

3 February 1941 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Devil Said No  »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Part of the SON OF SHOCK package of 20 titles released to television in 1958, which followed the original Shock Theater release of 52 features one year earlier. This was also one of the 11 Columbia titles, the other 61 all being Universals. See more »

Goofs

Dr. Julian tells Mrs. Walters she had 10,000 volts pass through her body. Volts do not flow or pass, amps do. See more »

Quotes

Anne Blair: My father had become a very strange man!
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Connections

Referenced in The Holiday (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Karloff as tragic figure never fails to satisfy
30 October 2010 | by See all my reviews

It is puzzling to me the uneven ratings that Karloff's films get. For example, the tiresome "The Ghoul" is rated almost the same as this film, though this is a much more satisfying horror film.

The films in which Karloff is the tragic figure lured into the world of the macabre by fate, such as in "The Walking Dead", are among the best that he made, and this is one of them. The first few minutes of the film take the time to show how great Karloff, as Dr. Julian Blair, had it prior to one fateful rainy night. He is head of the science department of a university, respected by his colleagues, and husband of over twenty years to a wonderful woman. However, a fatal car accident rips her from his side, and he is never the same again. His former experiments which were seeking a way to electronically read the minds of the living are now transformed into a possible means by which he may contact the dead, specifically his wife.

Unlike many horror films, this one explains how some of its rather clichéd ingredients appear - the isolated old dark house into which Blair moves to push toward finding a way to communicate with his dead wife, the harsh Mrs. Danvers-like woman that almost seems like a puppet-master to Blair, and finally an "Igor" like figure that acts as the mindless muscle to the doctor - all of these are explained as part of the plot.

This film has some great scenes for a production-code horror film in which one could only go so far. However, the "seance of the dead" scenes are unfairly forgotten ones in 40's horror, probably because this film was made by Columbia not Universal. Do note the presence of Kenneth MacDonald as the practical and kindly sheriff, as he often appeared as the heavy in Columbia's Three Stooges shorts, and this is a different kind of role for him.

Highly recommended for fans of old horror films and of Karloff.


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