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Murders in the Rue Morgue
Directed by Robert Florey
Produced by Carl Laemmle, Jr.
Written by Edgar Allan Poe (story)
Tom Reed (screenplay)
Dale Van Every (screenplay)
Robert Florey (adaptation)
John Huston (add. dialogue)
Ethel M. Kelly (uncredited)
Starring Bela Lugosi
Sidney Fox
Leon Ames
Bert Roach
Brandon Hurst
Arlene Francis
Cinematography Karl W. Freund
Editing by Miton Carruth
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s) February 21, 1932
Running time 61 min.
Country United States
Language English

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) is a Universal Pictures pre-Code horror film loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue." Bela Lugosi, one year after his legendary performance as Dracula, portrays a lunatic scientist who abducts women (one a prostitute played by Arlene Francis) and injects them with fresh blood from his vicious caged ape. The atmospheric cinematography by Karl Freund has been singled out by critics as superb, along with Robert Florey's direction. Thanks to Freund and Florey, the film has the look and feel of German expressionist films of the 1920s. However, some strongly violent scenes apparently prompted Universal executives to cut the film back to 61 minutes from what was originally an 80-minute running time. (Source: IMDB)

This film was provided as a sort of compensatory package for Lugosi and Florey after both were dropped from Frankenstein (1931). Lugosi had been originally cast as Dr. Frankenstein, and the film was to be directed by Florey. Lugosi was subsequently demoted to play the monster, which he claimed to have turned down. Florey was soon fired as director in favor of James Whale.

Box office results were disappointing, and Lugosi's original Universal contract for Dracula was not extended. But today's critics and Universal Horror-fans consider the film to be a classic.

Contents

Cast

Actor Role
Bela Lugosi Dr. Mirakle
Sidney Fox Mlle. Camille L'Espanaye
Leon Ames Pierre Dupin
Bert Roach Paul
Brandon Hurst Prefect of Police
Betty Ross Clarke Madame L'Espanaye
D'Arcy Corrigan Morgue Keeper
Noble Johnson Janos
Arlene Francis Woman of the streets
Edna Marion Mignette
Harry Holman Landlord
Herman Bing Franz Odenheimer
Agostino Bogato Alberto Montani
Ted Billings Sideshow Spectator
Torben Meyer The Dane
Charles Gemora Erik the Gorilla

Plot

The film is set in the 19th Century in Paris. The film retells Poe's short story to a film about a mad scientist, Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi, "Dracula himself" as the trailer credits him). He abducts young virgin women and injects them with ape blood, in order to create a mate for his talking sideshow ape, Erik (played by Charles Gemora, the famous gorilla performer).

Young Pierre Dupin, a young naive medical student and detective (Leon Ames -credited as Leon Waycoff- in the role of Poe's standard detective icon, C. Auguste Dupin), his fiancee Camille L'Espanaye (Sidney Fox, in the role of an original character in the short story), and their friends Paul (Bert Roach) and his girl Mignette (silent film actress Edna Marion, in her last film role) visit carnival sideshows, including Mirakle's sideshow where he exhibits Erik. Both master and servant are enchanted by Camille, whom Mirakle plans to become Erik's mate. He invites her to come and take a closer look on Erik, who grabs Camille's bonnet. Dupin tries to get it back, when Erik tries to strangle him. Mirakle backs him off and offers Camille to replace the bonnet. But Camille is reluctant and suspicious to give the doctor her address, so, when the leave, Mirakle orders his servant Janos (Noble Johnson) to follow her.

One of Mirakle's victims, a prostitute, is found dead in a river (a homage to another Dupin-Poe tale, The Mystery of Marie Roget), and is fished out and taken to the police station. Dupin wants to examine the girl's blood, but the morgue keeper (D'Arcy Corrigan) won't allow. A bribe convinces him to draw some of the blood himself and deliver it to Dupin the next day. Dupin discovers in the blood a foreign substance, also found in the blood of other victims.

Mirakle visits Camille and asks her to visit Erik again, but when she refuses, he sends Erik to kidnap her. Dupin happens to be passing out of the flat, hears her screams, and tries to enter the room but it is locked. The police arrive when the ape has already retreated and Dupin is arrested. Nor Madame L'Espanaye (Betty Ross Clarke) nor her daughter are found. The police prefect (Brandon Hurst, in a role based on the character G—from Poe's Dupin stories) interviews three witnesses: Italian Alberto Montani (Agostino Bogato), German Franz Odenheimer (Herman Bing) and a Dane (Torben Meyer). All of them state that they had heard Camille screaming and also someone else talking in a strange language (The German thinks it was Italian, the Italian thinks it was Danish and the Dane thinks it was German). Camille's mother is found dead, stuffed in the chimney (the fate of Camille herself in the original story) and her hand clutching on ape fur. Dupin points out from the fur that Erik himself may be involved.

The police, along with Dupin, run to Mirakle's hideout. Before they arrive, Erik turns against his master and strangles him. He grabs Camille when the police arrives and chases him. Erik, in pursuit, is cornered on the roof of a small dockside house. He confronts Dupin, who shoots the animal dead and eventually saving his fiancee from the peril.

Trivia

  • Many censors cut parts of the death scenes of the woman of the streets, eliminating her stabbing and her being tied to the cross beams.
  • The film was one of Ed Wood's Bela Lugosi favorites. He directed many homages to this film, most notably Bride of the Monster, which also featured Lugosi.
  • The ape featured partially in the film was a real female ape.
  • Charles Gemora, who played the ape Erik, played the role of Sultan/Erik in the remake, Phantom of the Rue Morgue.

See also

External links

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