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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 (email@example.com)
In the 1930s, Boris Karloff was initially with a relatively important studio (Universal) and was enjoying a lot of success. Later, he did some dandy films for Warner Brothers, but he also made some grade-Z films for poverty row studio, Monogram. All these films were fun to watch and often a bit silly, but the Monogram ones were known for their very low production values and silly plots. After THE APE (1940), Karloff was thrilled to get out of his contract with Monogram and ready to go on to better things. It SHOULD have been that way when he made THE DEVIL COMMANDS for Columbia. Sure, like Universal in the 1930s, Columbia was not the biggest of studios but it did have decent budgets and production values and I expected this to be a much better style of film than THE APE....but unfortunately, it seemed a lot like the exact same old style of film and nothing more. Like THE APE and the rather bland Mr. Wong films for Monogram, this one was nothing special.
It stars Karloff as a kindly scientist with the best of intentions that ultimately becomes a mad man--using science to create abominations. Considering how often he did this, the whole thing seems very, very derivative and stale. We've seen this all before and there is nothing that makes this film stand out from many others just like it. Also, the narration and the epilogue just seem heavy-handed and unnecessary.
Is it fun and worth a look (particularly to lovers of B-horror films), yes. But it could have been so much better.
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