Monday, October 20, 2008

31 Days of Halloween - Day 20 Movie 2

One of my earliest memories of movie viewing is the sequence that builds to the climax of "Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1932) with Erik, the gorilla (Charles Gemora) carrying Camille (Sydney Fox) over the rooftops of Paris as a crowd on the street follows. That sequence is still incredibly striking to me now.

The movie, like so many others, allegedly adapts one of Edgar Allan Poe's stories, but beyond the title, has very little to do with the actual story. Here, Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi) brings evolution to a sideshow carnival, where he explains the theory of evolution to the crowd, but then tells them that he can converse with his gorilla companion, Erik, which apparently he can. Mirakle becomes taken by Camille, and after failures to find a suitable "bride of science' whose blood he can merge with Erik's, has Erik abduct her for his experiments.

The movie, at an hour in length, often feels sluggish, mainly because the characters seem like carcicatures, and because the plot itself is pretty weak. The real strength of this movie lies in its visuals. Cinematographer Karl Freund (who handled the more succesful directing moments as well as the cinematography on "Dracula" and would later go on to direct "The Mummy")and art director Charles D. Hall who handled Universal's horror films of the 1920s and 1930s create a gorgeous expressionistic Paris setting for this film, as close to the look of "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" as Hollywood ever came. Much of this look can be credited to director Robert Florey, who was initially set to direct "Frankenstein", and was given this movie as his consolation prize. Looking at this, one wonders what Florey would have brought to "Frankenstein" in terms of its visuals.

1 comment:

Flesheating Arbogast said...

I love a good Gothic rooftop scene, John, and Murders is certainly among them. Ye gods, there's nothing quite like the magic of those old miniatures and mattes. There's a dandy one in The Picture of Dorian Gray, too, which depicts the Limehouse district of London where Dorian takes his walks on the Wilde side.