The mysterious and grisly murders of a mother and daughter leave police investigators puzzled. Few clues were left behind. The killer could not have fled via the windows as they were nailed shut. Nor was the killer observed leaving by neighbors. It seems the only person with the skills to solve the crime is Auguste Dupin, who has been released from the police department by the new prefect. After much persuasion from his daughter, whose fiance is charged with the crime, Dupin begins to investigate the case on his own, and puts together quite an interesting scenario in solving the crime. Written by
All brawn and no brains - good actors miscast, poor direction, poor script
When the basic story of a film is good, you naturally want to like it. But, sometimes, about half of the way through, you realize that it hasn't lived up to expectations. Edgar Allan Poe wrote a fantastic tale, no doubts there. But this film is sadly misguided.
Several factors contribute to this. First, David Epstein's screenplay effectively rips all the subtlety out of the source material. Second, director Jeannot Szwarc makes absolutely no attempt to film this in a way that takes advantage of its low budget and venue. Finally, the casting is utterly random. Accents and nationalities are thrown together with total abandon.
In spite of all that, some the cast members manage to put in good performances. George C. Scott (as Auguste Dupin) is really excellent, with great command of his dialogue. Naturally, he is miscast, but acts as if he is in a far better film. A very young Val Kilmer (as Phillipe) is good, but has almost nothing to work with. He too, is miscast, though the main reason I originally watched this. Ian McShane is certainly entertaining, but his character has no subtlety.
After the acting, there's little to say. The only quality the film has left it owes to its source material. This might have been acceptable for an original script, but as a badly adapted story, it is simply disappointing.
The editing seems haphazard at points, either that important scenes were removed, or never filmed. Dupin's realization of the culprit is never explained, nor the contents of his newspaper ad, or any of his deductive process for that matter. Phillipe's process of discovering Adolphe's unfaithfulness is also never explained.
Finally, the intelligence of the script dips considerably by the final scenes. I won't elaborate, but they have all the brains of a 1950s horror B movie. Really weak.
RATING: 6.2 out of 10
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