Svengoolie presents … Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)
This movie has no reputation whatsoever, except that it is based on one of the most famous gothic short stories ever written. It is a very old film and done in black-and-white, but stars the master of all things horror, Bela Lugosi. Lugosi plays an eccentric showman, a guy as crazy as every other role he’s played. The story makes no sense and could have some of the worst dialogue I’ve ever heard, which is made worse by Lugosi’s accent.
The plot involves Lugosi trying to create a female mate for his gorilla buddy. Instead of just buying a female gorilla, he decides to create his own by mixing human blood with gorilla blood. Yes, that’s seriously the plot. The short story did involve an orangutan, but it was kept by a sailor, not a mad sideshow showman, and the short story did not involve any mad science.
The short story by Edgar Allan Poe is also well-known for its detective elements and it is unusual in its use of an orangutan as the murderer. Oh spoilers btw. The movie makes use elements from the short story, but the original elements ruin the movie and make it a terrible interpretation. But the police do investigate and interview people to get to the bottom of some murders, but there is no suspense in this investigation. We already know who is behind the murders based on the opening scene, so the audience also knows that Lugosi is evil and deserving of criminal punishment.
Bela Lugosi made Dracula in 1931 and no doubt easily got work afterward. He completed nine films between 1931 and 1932. He was a busy B-actor. This film is especially crummy and weird. I just can’t get past the stupid setup and silly mad scientist bit.
All in all, this is one movie deserving of the Svengoolie treatment. Some of the supporting characters give it their all, but the movie is just setup in a silly way. The gorilla itself looks pretty good in this movie, as compared to other terrible monster movies in the 30s, 40s, and 50s. There’s a happy, laughing musical number in the middle of this horror movie for some reason and afterward, a scene shows people happily playing in the park for no reason whatsoever. It has nothing do with the plot, except to highlight some of the next murder victims.
Poe’s story screams to be a police procedural, but this movie decides instead to be just an exploration of the weird. About thirty or forty minutes into the movie, the characters decide the mad scientist is really strange, which I knew at minute two. Pretty silly. Anyway, this is no classic and only worthy of watching once for Bela Lugosi. Good thing it’s short.