Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) Poster

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4/10
Clichés and wasted opportunities...
secondtake24 June 2012
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

There are so many complex scenes, so many amazing sets and costumes, and lots of moving camera that implies intelligent filmmaking it's a miracle this film came out so wooden. And frankly boring.

Part of the problem is Jason Robards in the lead--another actor might have pulled off the drama and intrigue anyway. And the leading victim-female is almost terrible--Christine Kaufmann. But the director, Gordon Hessler, I think gets the worst of everyone, and all this apparent money and talent is squashed under bright even light and uninspired performances.

There are lots of horror film clichés that might be satisfying to some, including just the use of the theater as a set (somewhat like Phantom of the Opera). But some of the clichés are cheezy 1971 versions, like dreamy sequences with double exposures or slow motion, and strange sound effects of choral voices.

There were enough people who really liked this movie for the director to mades an official director's cut with eleven extra minutes. Well, why not? It's all voluntary, and I'd vote against it unless you are really into the themes here, the actors, or just have a lot of time free and here it is. It's no awful, it's just slow and clunky. And why did they film it with such shadlowless flat bright light? It's a horror film, for goodness sake.
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4/10
Boring and Dull Movie with Terrible Screenplay and Wooden Performances
claudio_carvalho30 August 2014
In Paris, in the beginning of the Twentieth Century, Cesar Charron (Jason Robards) owns a theater at the Rue Morgue where he performs the play "Murders in the Rue Morgue" with his wife Madeleine Charron (Christine Kaufmann), who has dreadful nightmares.

When there are several murders by acid of people connected to Cesar, the prime suspect of Inspector Vidocq (Adolfo Celi) would be Cesar's former partner Rene Marot (Herbert Lom). But Marot murdered Madeleine's mother (Lilli Palmer) many years ago and committed suicide immediately after.

"Murders in the Rue Morgue" is a boring and dull movie with terrible screenplay and wooden performances. There are many clichés; rip-off of scenes and concepts from "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Sherlock Holmes" and Christine Kaufmann is awful in the lead role. There is one terrible dreamlike scene where Madeleine looks to her dress before jumping into the carriage. My vote is four.

Title (Brazil): Not Available
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A bit of a bad dream.
david-6972 September 2004
Not a straight remake of the classic Poe tale, more an odd mixture of `The Phantom Of The Opera' (Herbert Lom is effectively reprising his Hammer Phantom), `Theatre of Death' and Poe's familiar themes of premature burial, `Murders In The Rue Morgue' is an experiment which does not quite work.

Partly this is down to Chris Wicking's script, not best known for his narrative clarity, here he reaches it a new low, with a script obscure in the extreme (at several points it seems to contradict itself). He is not helped by Hessler's direction, the strengths showed in the earlier `Scream And Scream Again' seem to have disappeared, and replaced by sheer shoddiness (some of the murders are very badly staged). A more imaginative director was needed to compensate for the script, especially in the case of the repetitive dream sequences which pepper the film.

By this time Vincent Price had jumped ship and was replaced by Jason Robards Jnr. An odd choice, as aside from being too contemporary for this period setting, he is also, dare I say it, too good an actor for this material. It really needed an actor, who like Price, had a strong sense of irony. As a result Robards just looks flat. Lom comes across much better, but again ham-fisted direction by Hessler sometimes makes him look absurd (the worst offender is when Lom follows Robards; it's staged so badly that a blind man would have noticed Lom).

It's a mess, but despite its many faults it is entertaining enough, the frustrating thing about it is that you get the feeling that given a better script and a more imaginative director (and Vincent Price instead of Robards) this movie could have been very good indeed.
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8/10
Red dreams, axes and acid
bygard2 May 2007
A little different kind of a horror movie based on a story by Edgar Allan Poe and interestingly so. Much have been altered from the original short story, though. To be exact, not only is it based on Poe, but there is also a great deal of Gaston Leroux's 'Phantom of the Opera' mixed in as well. And to emphasize that matter Herbert Lom, who brilliantly did the phantom role in 1962 British Hammer version, handles a part here with a mask hiding his injured face. Jason Robards is also nice to see in this kind of film for a change after having enjoyed his work before in westerns and dramas.

The plot is set in nineteenth century Paris around a theater troop resembling the historic Grand Guignol theater and is similarly specialized on cruel natured horror plays. The certain theatricality follows everywhere the story takes us and stays in the actors even when they are not on stage. The streets are crowded with a carnival and merry-go-rounds. There is a puppet theater, tricks and hypnotism. Even the real murders are executed in most showy ways. The atmosphere has a dreamy, almost surrealistic quality. And the actual dream sequences (What's a Poe film without them?) are beautifully shot and tinted in red tones. Very beautiful and creepy all at the same.

For an American horror production the film has a surprisingly bright European art film look and feel. Instead of using wholly dramatic studio sets we are treated with daylight locations, streets and parks, which allows the movie breath a bit between the expected horrors. This production was a pleasant surprise from Gordon Hessler and American International and a refreshing addition to their line of earlier Poe films directed by Roger Corman.
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3/10
Poe-less
JasparLamarCrabb29 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Not terrible, but pretty close. It's difficult to not be disappointed in a movie that features Jason Robards, Herbert Lom AND Michael Dunn and still manages to be dull. Robards leads an theatre troupe whose members are being killed after being splashed with acid. Detective Adolfo Celi suspects Lom (who "died" years earlier). Aside from the presence of various men in gorilla costumes, the movie bears little resembles to Poe's story. Nevertheless it's well directed by Gordon Hessler with a lot of period detail (and Spain makes a nice substitute for France). Robards is just OK, Lom is fairly creepy and Dunn is exploited as a sinister dwarf. Christine Kaufmann (a actress of little talent and even less presence) plays Robards nubile young wife, plagued by nightmares and premonitions of things to come. Lili Palmer appears briefly as Kaufmann's mother.
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3/10
Colorful but dull
preppy-311 February 2002
Players at a Paris theatre (run by Jason Robards) become victims of a masked murderer (Herbert Lom). I saw a brand new print of this so the colors were rich and strong...that's about it for compliments. The movie was very obviously filmed in Spain and has erratic performances (even by pros Robards and Lom). Leading lady Christine Kaufmann is a really terrible actress and keeps having the same stupid dream again and again and again and again etc etc. The film is slow-moving, repititious, has lousy make-up (Lom seems to be wearing the exact same face he had in "Phantom of the Opera" in 1964) and the most boring murders ever put on screen...no gore and very little blood. Stick with the 1932 Lugosi version.
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Odd but entertaining Poe tale...sort of
squeezebox13 October 2003
Gordon Hessler's MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE is not, as the title would suggest, really an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story. In fact, it has next to nothing to do with Poe's tale, basically using it as little more than a starting off point. This is odd, as MURDERS is one of Poe's few stories that actually lends itself to being expanded into a feature film. It's a Sherlock Holmes-esque mystery, the bulk of which is about the method of solving the murders as opposed to the murders themselves.

Hessler's MURDERS plays much more like a remake of PHANTOM OF THE OPERA than anything Poe ever wrote. And, although many of Poe's themes are present (e.g. murder, paranoia, vengeance), the movie lacks the sense of irony and macabre which drove Roger Corman's Poe adaptations, or even Hessler's own CRY OF THE BANSHEE.

Jason Robards is oddly cast as the director and lead actor of a theatre troupe whose specialty is a production of Poe's story. His actors and people with whom he has relationships are being murdered by a mysterious masked man (Herbert Lom). The police are at a loss, and Robards does what he can to help them out...or so it would seem. Somehow mixed in with this is a vindictive dwarf (the wonderful Michael Dunn), who seems to have his own beef with Robards.

As with Hessler's other movies, it's somewhat convoluted and hard to follow, but it does come to an interesting conclusion. His writers (on previous Poe films as well) seem to be attempting to emulate Richard Matheson's technique of taking Poe's work and expanding it, rearranging it, or even changing it, but keeping it's flavor rich and alive throughout. They don't quite manage that here, but the movie still works on it's own terms.

MURDERS is a decent thriller, with good performances, moody photography and a lush music score. It has the same grindhouse quality as Hessler's previous Poe "adaptations", but the director boasts a much more noticeable sense of style this time around. While it's never as creepy as CRY OF THE BANSHEE or bizarre as SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN, it manages a fair degree of suspense and intensity, and is at the very least fun and fast paced.
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Too Lifeless to Really Work
Michael_Elliott26 January 2014
Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

** (out of 4)

British version puts a twist on the story (and previous versions) of Edgar Allan Poe. In this version, a stage troupe is putting on a version of Murders in the Rue Morgue when real murders start to happen. The lead actor (Jason Robards) and Inspector Vidocq (Herbert Lom) try and track down who is responsible. This version of the Poe story has been ripped to pieces over the years but having skipped it for thirty-plus years I was well aware that several liberties were taken. I can't say I blame director Gordon Hessler for wanting to change things around considering there had been several versions of the story already done. The biggest problem is that with the changes nothing too exciting is done and nothing here is as entertaining as what Poe wrote. I think the biggest thing going against the picture is the fact that it's rather dull and only comes to life during the opening sequence and the final one. Everything in between is rather lifeless and really drags to the point where you just simply don't care who's doing the killing. The version I viewed was the 97-minute director's cut, which restores some eleven-minutes that AIP had originally cut out. I don't know the whole history of the film so I can't say which version is better but I have to think that a lot of the material here was just filler. You'd think that having actors like Robards and Lom would have been a positive but it's really not. Yes, it's fun seeing them in a film like this but at the same time both are clearly just here to cash a paycheck. Robards seems extremely uninterested in anything going on and the same can be said about Lom who seems to be rushing through every scene just to get it over with. There are a few good things about the film including its colorful look as well as the atmosphere but this here just isn't enough to recommend it to others.
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MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (Gordon Hessler, 1971) **1/2
Bunuel197613 October 2004
Apart from SCREAM AND SCREAM AGAIN (1969), this was the one Hessler film I was most looking forward to, also because I failed to grab the single opportunity I had had so far to give it a view; the fact that it was, in all probability, the 87-minute cut messed up by the studio (which I would love to watch, if only for the sake of comparison), keeps gnawing at me even now!

Now, for my thoughts on the film: despite an interesting 'revisionist' premise (with its various subtexts) - inspired by but not based on the Poe original - all in all, I found the film rather dull and Hessler's direction disappointingly lifeless, if pictorially valid (as we had come to expect of him by now). Still, one cannot really blame AIP for straying so far away from the main source: as Hessler himself says in the interview on the DVD, everybody already knew the ending to Poe's story - so it would not have 'worked' had they simply adapted this to the screen. Therefore, the writers had to reinvent the plot – and the way they went about it, i.e. 'working' around Poe's very tale (as it's being presented at a Grand Guignol theater) was actually quite ingenious! Having said that, however, what kind of a story do you 'invent' that could center around the stage if not the old 'Phantom of the Opera' routine?! So, I guess, every 'revisionist' adaptation - however novel – has a downside, too!

While I don't really see Vincent Price in either lead role, it's very much true that – as it is - Herbert Lom was basically going through the paces (having been THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA [1962] for Hammer), while Jason Robards' mind was clearly elsewhere. Truth be told, theirs was interesting casting, but I have a hunch it would have worked even better had the two roles been reversed (as Robards himself seems to have suggested during filming!). The rest of the cast – Christine Kaufmann, Adolfo Celi, Michael Dunn and Lilli Palmer – were up to their (mostly unassuming) tasks, if not particularly outstanding.

The dream sequences (rather cerebral for this type of film) drew attention to themselves, particularly through the use of slow motion - and they were certainly effective, if not exactly creepy. As I have already stated, the theatrical and period atmosphere was well captured, in spite of the low budget, though I never felt like I 'was' in Paris (maybe because I knew beforehand that it was actually filmed in Spain?)!

Not having watched the 'original' version, I don't know whether I would have actually liked this 'Director's Cut' more if I had – which I did, by the way, but I somehow expected it to be better (maybe after the overwhelming positive response the recent discovery of this restored cut has generated?). I certainly don't think it holds a candle to Universal's flawed but fascinating 'Expressionist' version of 1932 (not very popular around these boards, I gather?) – though in all fairness, it's not quite the same movie, so there you are!
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7/10
Overlong but still entertaining variation of the story
kannibalcorpsegrinder23 January 2013
When a string of vicious murders on former employees brings the attention of a traveling circus owner, he realizes they're being done in the style of a thought-deceased associate's suspected death and that he may be out for more than revenge with his rampage.

An overlong, needlessly epic retelling of the story that tends to meander on for a good twenty minutes more than necessary simply because there's far too much useless stuff at the very beginning with it's exaggerated pace that really keeps things from building up too quickly or really reveling in it's more grotesque moments. As it stands, though, there's still some good parts here as the masked phantom creates an imposing presence during his sequences, there's plenty of rather fun Grand Guiginol-style theater scenes of the troupe putting on violent, splatter-drenched performances that really gives the film a sense of fun and excitement early on, and several of the murders get particularly nasty, especially when they're combined with fantastic set-ups and execution to create a memorably nasty scene. Again, there's problems but it's not so bad.

Today's Rating/PG-13: Violence
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8/10
Nightmare and dream prophecy. Badly scarred Marot murdering victims with acid.
Kimmer-317 September 1998
This is one of my favourite movies. I loved Herbert Lom and Michael Dunn. From my research on this movie, it was supposed to have a twist in the ending, but it was "badly edited" and good elements of the story were lost. (I am familiar with Henry Slesar's writings and his stories are excellent and unpredictable.) I have been looking for the "unedited" screenplay for over 10 years now, so if anyone knows where to find it or what the missing elements of the story are... I would love to see this movie unedited!

Even edited, this movie is worth watching. Herbert Lom does an excellent job in this role. No "Phantom" has been able to match him.

Story summary: Madeline (Christine Kauffman) , a horror actress, is haunted by nightmares of an axeman. (Her mother was brutally murdered with an axe 12 years earlier.) A badly scarred actor, Rene Marot (Herbert Lom), who was in love with her mother comes back from the "dead" and murders former members of the acting troup with acid. What do these nightmares have to do with these murders? Who is this scarred actor and why is he committing these murders? Who killed Madeline's mother? Watch the movie and find out!
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Restored to it's original 98 min length for US cable
john-85216 August 2002
AIP cut this and added color tints to the flash forwards and flashbacks and changed the ending. This has run on the Encore Mystery network since Feb. 2002 in a restored 98 min version...11 minutes longer than the AIP hack job. A dvd should follow sometime in 2003.
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1/10
Nothing to do with the original story.
TMokko9 November 2018
The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) is one of the worst adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe's short story by the same name.

First of all. It's not the story from the book. Many horror films from that time period typically bought the rights to use a name of a famous book and just made a film which sometimes was close to actual book and sometimes not. This film is an example of the latter. There is only one similarity - an ape.

Scenes are repetitive. Most of the movie depicts Herpert Lom running around in a ridiculous black cloak and a mask on his face. Sometimes he sneaks in a lady's bedroom or throws some acid from a cute little bottle on someones face. He has a dwarf minion who really has no function in story. Story line is allover the place and the film viewers are either puzzled of what is happening on the screen or bored out of their minds.

Acting is both lame and overly dramatic. Naturally women are helpless and dumb as a doorbell. Bad acting can't be explained to be a style typical for the time of the films production. For example Willard and The Nightcomers from the same year are totally on the different quality level.

Don't waste your time on this turkey - read Poe's original story instead.
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6/10
"I've Had my Revenge...But It Is Not Enough...I Need Love...Love"
BaronBl00d17 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
To be honest I have never been a great fan of director Gordon Hessler. I didn't like Scream, and Scream Again, hated Cry of the Banshee, and thought The Oblong Box was okay. I did like his Sinbad film and really liked his Kolchak episode(The Spanish Moss Murders)to be fair. I always thought he was one of those directors that tended to have a lot to work with but never fully utilized his wealth. Directors like Herscell Gordon Lewis, Larry Buchanan, and Ed Wood never had a third or fourth of what Hessler was working with but sometimes blindsided him with their efforts. So...to spin a long story short...I went into Murders in the Rue Morgue with some trepidation and had limited expectations. It surprised me. It didn't suck. Nor is it great, but Hessler did a lot of things right here though the film has some obvious flaws. Hessler does create a very European-feeling film despite having Jason Robards in the lead(it helps that most of the rest of the cast is European like Herbert Lom, Adolfo Celi(see him in a lot of films from this time period it seems), Christine Kaufmann, Lili Palmer, Peter Arne, and virtually everyone else except Michael Dunn). Hessler also creates some good visuals with some repeated dream sequences of a man falling from the theater rafters and an ax being wielded by a man in evening dress. Hessler also gets some scenes with acid and the plays being performed on stage very nicely done. His script is a huge problem as Poe is more of a backdrop for another retelling of The Phantom of the Opera. the story itself about a man seeking revenge is okay - I really like what happened to Robards at the end. Nonetheless, much of the story makes no sense, a staple in a Hessler film it seems to me. While there are some shortcomings, I am offering up a mild vote of confidence for Murders in the Rue Morgue as it is watchable, does have some merit, and is one of Hessler's better films - for what that is worth.
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7/10
Greed, jealousy, revenge ... and Vitriol!
Coventry4 April 2012
Scriptwriter Christopher Wicking and director Gordon Hessler collaborate a number of times in a span of only a few years time and, even though none of their joint ventures can truly be considered as a pure genre classic, they nevertheless always delivered very entertaining and versatile horror efforts, like the atmospheric "The Oblong Box", the rather perverted "Cry of the Banshee" and the (slightly over-)ambitious "Scream and Scream Again". The title of this film makes believe it's their interpretation of Edgar Allan Poe's legendary tale, but the set-up is in fact a bit more creative than that. "Murders in the Rue Morgue" is set at a theater in Paris, where the respectable top artist Cesar Charron and his ensemble depict Poe's oeuvre on stage, but the actual plot of the movie simultaneously borrows elements from that other great and legendary story by Gaston Leroux; "The Phantom of the Opera". Charron's young and beautiful wife Madeleine suffers from recurring nightmares featuring an axe murderer, a falling rope and an old dark house. Meanwhile a masked maniac is brutally killing off Charron's friends and old co-actors with acid. What's the mysterious link between this vengeful killing spree and Madeleine's nightmare? Only Cesar Charron knows… This version of "Murders in the Rue Morge", the second one I watch after the 30's version starring Bela Lugosi, contains a number of horror elements that I absolutely worship, so don't expect an overly critical analysis from my side! First and foremost, the era as well as the setting is sublime. Presumably taking place in the early 1900's, (though the original story was published in 1841) the recreation of Paris around that time is magical. The theater, although exclusively performing harrowing and extremely violent plays, is always sold out entirely and outside on the streets there are non-stop carnivals going on, full of weird people and prostitutes. What a blast of a period and place to live! Furthermore the film benefices from marvelous period decors, costumes and scenery, and there are a number of righteously cast eccentric supportive characters, like a truly eerie dwarf, a bombastic carnival artist specializing in the "art" of faking his own death and an archetypal French police inspector. The murders and the make-up effects are fantastically "Grand Guignol" to boot! Acid - more specifically Vitriol – has a horrible effect on human skin and director Hessler doesn't leave any opportunity unused to show burning faces and mutilated corpses. The plot is engaging and fairly suspenseful, albeit predictable and rather obvious as soon as you gradually get to know the main characters and their personalities. The undeniable highlight of "Murders in the Rue Morgue" are Madeleine's vividly illustrated dreams, as they're hauntingly surreal, colorful and guided by ominous music. It's during these sequences especially that I thought a couple of times that Gordon Hessler and Christopher Wicking are quite underrated names in a horror era primarily dominated by the British Hammer, Tigon and Amicus studios. Jason Robards appears a bit uncomfortable in the horror surrounding, but he nonetheless remains a brilliant actor of course, while Herbert Lom shines in another – for him – familiar role of masked anti-heroic avenger.
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6/10
The Title Is Misdirection, The Film Is Something More
gavin694231 October 2012
Warning: Spoilers
While the title suggests that the film is an adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's short story (something that had not been done since the 1930s), it is actually far more similar to "Phantom of the Opera", which has been done many, many times.

The film is noteworthy for being one of the two American International Pictures Poe films without Vincent Price -- the other being "Premature Burial". But should this film really count as Poe anyway?

Howard Thompson of the New York Times wrote that "the entire film is a gorgeous eyeful in excellent color, with lavish period decor and costumes and some perfectly beautiful dream montages." While I can hardly disagree, he goes above and beyond the praise I would have offered. I mean, I liked the story and the acting, but I never really noticed the color. And I am not sure what the "period decor" is, since there is no indication this is supposed to be anything but modern (after all, how can you present Poe's story unless it is well after he wrote it).

Thompson does offer one negative piece of criticism, and that involves pointing out that "a tacked-on, drawn-out postscript almost flattens the fun." I completely agree with this. While I enjoyed the film, I felt like it had two or three endings, and just kept going anyway. There is no better way to make a film seem long (wearing out its welcome) than to make it start after the audience has stopped!
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