Tuesday, January 16, 2018
OVERLOOKED FILM: MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE (1932)
Generally considered the first modern detective story, Poe's tale has had a long and not always faithful place in motion pictures, from a long lost 1908 silent film that replaced the detective with Sherlock Holmes to a made for TV movie starring George C. Scott. Along the way, this 1932 film starring Bela Lugosi (one year after his brilliant turn in Dracula) was released by Universal Pictures.
A somewhat loose adaption, Murders in the Rue Morgue changes the name of the detective C. Auguste Dupin to Pierre Dupin for reasons that are beyond me. The plot of Poe's story , if not the basic crime, is also altered. Lugosi plays the mad Dr. Mirakle, who kidnaps young women and injects them with ape blood in an effort to prove his theory that man and ape are related. Dupin, played by Leon Waycroft (better known in his later career as Leon Ames) is engaged to the beautiful Camille L'Espanaye (Sidney Fox, whose promising career started a downhill slide, ending with her suicide in 1942 at the age of 34). Dr. Mirakle sees Sydney and decides she would make a fine wife for his ape Eric. When Camille is kidnapped, Dupin suspects Mirakle and vows to get her back.
Also included in the cast are Bert Roach (a former Keystone Kop who is best known as a comic supporting actor), Betty Ross Clarke (a stage actress best known as Andy Hardy's aunt), Noble Johnson (an Africa-American character actor who co-founded Lincoln Studios to make so-called "race films," and a young Arlene Francis in her first credited role as "Woman of the Streets." Look closely and you'll see Iron Eyes Cody as an "Indian at the Carnival."
Murders in the Rue Morgue was directed by French-born Robert Florey (The Cocoanuts, Meet Boston Blackie, The Beast with Five Fingers). Florey also adapted Poe's story with help from screenwriters Tom Reed and Dale Van Emery; John Huston was also thrown into the mix to add some dialogue.
Note: The film actually begins thirteen and a half minutes into the link. The first part of the link gives you the good old movie experience from touting the snack bar to previews -- fun, if that's your thing.