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>
Bela Lugosi here again speaks flawless French, starting with "Mesdames et Messieurs" when first introducing himself onstage and, most notably, "Mademoiselle"---which he repeats often. Not a trace of his trademark Hungarian accent can be heard when Bela pronounces French, but he also intones the words like a native Frenchman. Indeed, in other films, he can also be heard pronouncing the difficult to master nasal French "an" sound, as well as the guttural French R's, as opposed to his signature rolled Hungarian R's which he used in English. See more »
During the sequence in which the gorilla carries the girl across the rooftops, a few of the shots make it very clear that he's holding a stiff-necked female mannequin and not a real person. See more »
My life is consecrated to great experiment. I tell you I will prove your kinship with the ape. Eric's blood will be mixed with the blood of man!
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At the end of the film, the cast list is shown again with the heading, "A GOOD CAST IS WORTH REPEATING...." See more »
In the early 1930s, Universal made three horror films that were loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe stories. Bela Lugosi starred in each of these films and this trilogy ranks as some of the best work of his career. The story for this one follows Poe most closely of the three, although still far removed from the source material. It's about a mad scientist named Dr. Mirakle (a brilliantly over-the-top Lugosi) who seeks to prove evolutionary theory by injecting ape blood into women! He tries it out on several prostitutes but it doesn't work because their blood is "tainted." So he sets his sights on pretty virginal Camille (Sidney Fox) and sends his gorilla Erik to kidnap her. Camille's boyfriend Pierre Dupin (Leon Ames) figures out what Mirakle is up to and rushes to save her from the maniacal doctor and his pet ape.
While a very good Universal horror film, it's got some faults that have kept it from being more widely loved. So let's cover them first. Leon Ames (billed as Leon Waycoff here) is an insipid leading man. Ames stated in interviews later in life that he hated the movie and, given his performance, I can see why. He gets a little better in the later scenes but the early romantic stuff is stilted. He also appears at times to be wearing silent movie makeup, which is probably no fault of his. Fat Bert Roach is much worse as the supposed comic relief. I kept hoping Erik would get loose and rip his guts out. He contributes nothing to the movie and thankfully disappears about midway through.
The main problem with the movie for many, myself included, is the gorilla itself. A guy in a gorilla suit playing Erik isn't the problem. Given the era this was made there wasn't much else that could be done. However, the cheap close-ups are one of the worst parts of the movie. Whenever they want to show a close-up of Erik, they show footage of some chimpanzee which looks nothing like a gorilla. It's absolutely terrible and takes the movie out of the realm of straight horror film and into camp territory. This is especially bad during the climax of the film when such distractions are definitely not needed.
Those problems aside, the movie is still a good one for fans of classic horror films for two reasons: Robert Florey and Bela Lugosi. Florey's Expressionistic direction is excellent. He creates a moody atmosphere with dark foggy streets and Mirakle's creepy shadowy laboratory. He uses several unique camera angles and tricks that you won't find in any other horror films from the period. You'd be more likely to find this type of filmmaking going back a few years to the silent era when German Expressionism was at its height. There are some truly great shots in this movie that classic horror fans will love. Lugosi's Dr. Mirakle, with his wild hair and unibrow, is one of moviedom's most memorable mad scientists. Mirakle's stalking and torturing of a street walker is powerful stuff. It's one of Bela's craziest performances. Hammy? Sure, but thoroughly enjoyable.
It's a very good movie that most Universal horror fans and Lugosi fans will enjoy. The other two films in the trilogy are The Black Cat and The Raven, which star Bela alongside Boris Karloff. Those two movies are even better than Rue Morgue, though they have even less to do with Poe!
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