To not be able to hear C. Aubrey Smith's thick British droll is a big loss. He dominates the first half of the film and hearing him dubbed in French is tough to take. A similar feeling transpires when missing Bramwell Fletcher's excellent diction and Ivan Simpson's humble voice. The film is well-cast. Simpson is perfect for the somewhat pathetic John White. I had the fortune of an English language script to follow the dialogue. If you are familiar with the story, though, as I would think many horror fans are, then you can follow along for the most part without a script.
There is no musical score in the film. If there was one then it went away with the English dialogue. The sound effects are very good - lots of wind and creaking of wood that you would expect from this kind of horror tale. I was under the impression there would be shots of the paw moving (special effects), but in this copy of the film there is only one shot of the paw moving and it is very unimpressive. The direction is adequate. Most of all, the film does have a feeling of being uneven. The story goes that the portion of the film that focuses on the White family was shot by Wesley Ruggles and came in at just over a half hour in length. To compensate for this and pad the film's length, the prologue with C. Aubrey Smith's character, Tom, and how he came to own the paw was shot afterwards by Ernest Schoedsack. I have to say, I enjoyed very much the prologue which takes place in India. It adds to the viewers' belief that the paw is tragically cursed as we see what happens to a poor Indian woman who dies horribly for her wishes. Tom, then makes a similar poor judgment in his use of the paw which leads him to come back to London and tell this tale to the Whites.
The thing that will interest most people who are familiar with this film is the ending. The original version that was shown in the US in 1933 had a happy ending. It turned out that the whole story was a dream and Herbert White (John's son) and Rose get to live happily ever after. In this French version, the film ends with Mr. and Mrs. White having used their final wish to send their son back to his grave in peace. This, to readers of the short story, is the scene most people remember. It is not filmed well as the action takes place all in one long shot. As John wishes his son back to his grave, he is in the background of the shot while his wife frantically tries to open the door to let her dead son in. More cutting and closer shots would have benefited the film, but again, this clearly has the hallmarks of being a minor B picture.
There is very little storytelling flair in terms of camera-work and editing, but there are ample shadows and dark atmosphere. The suspense doesn't build up as you would hope, though. I'm confident that seeing it and hearing the English actors' voices would help, because it is hard to read a script and look up at the TV screen for 49 minutes. So, the filmmakers' original work is still in many ways, lost. After all, it is a privilege to see THE MONKEY'S PAW as it just as easily could have gone unseen forever. There is a rumor of an English language version being discovered and if this is true, I think this film would be much more enjoyable. It begs the question, though as to what the best ending could be - a dream or reality?