PHANTOM OF THE RUE MORGUE
(director: Roy Del Ruth; screenwriters: Harold Medford/James R. Webb/based on the short story Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe; cinematographer: J. Peverell Marley; editor: James Moore; music: David Buttolph; cast: Karl Malden (Dr. Marais), Claude Dauphin (Insp. Bonnard, Patricia Medina (Jeanette Rovere), Allyn McLerie (Yvonne), Anthony Caruso (Jacques the one-eyed), Veola Vonn (Arlette), Dolores Dorn (Camille), Steve Forrest (Prof. Paul Dupin), Paul Richards (Rene, the knife thrower), Merv Griffith (George Brevert, College Student), Henry Kulky (Maurice, Sailor), Rolphe Sedan (LeBon), Erin O’Brien-Moore (Wardrobe Lady), Charles Gemora (Killer Ape); Runtime: 84; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henry Blanke; Warner Bros.; 1954) in 3-D
“Karl Malden has the Lugosi mad scientist part in this film and that’s not a role he can handle.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Veteran studio filmmaker Roy Del Ruth (“Topper Returns “/”The Alligator People”) weakly directs this dull horror pic, while Harold Medford and James R Webb write the screenplay that’s based on the short story Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe. Other versions include the much better Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) with Bela Lugosi (a miscast hammy Karl Malden has the Lugosi mad scientist part in this film and that’s not a role he can handle). In 1971 it was made as Murders in the Rue Morgue with Jason Robards and Herbert Lom. The most accurate version was made in 1986 as a TV movie with George C. Scott as Professor Dupin.
In Paris, in the 1890s, the smug Police Inspector Bonnard (Claude Dauphin) can’t solve a vicious night killing on the Rue Morgue. That’s followed three months later by a similar brutal killing of the sexy Yvonne (Allyn McLerie), a cabaret performer in a knife throwing act. Suspects are her jealous knife throwing stage partner Rene (Paul Richards) and her college student boyfriend George Brevert (Merv Griffin).
For clues, the police find a bracelet with tinkling bells on Yvonne’s arm. The college student is cleared by his Sorbonne psychology professor Paul Dupin (Steve Forrest) and Dupin’s attractive fiancée and laboratory assistant, Jeannette Rovere (Patricia Medina). While questioned, Dupin introduces Bonnard to a fellow professor, a guest lecturer from the zoo, the zoologist and psychologist Dr. Marais (Karl Malden), who trains mice to respond to bells and has strange theories about the killer instinct in an animal sometimes remaining dormant.
The killings continue, as an athletic attacker enters an attic apartment through a rooftop window and kills a painter’s model, Arlette (Veola Vonn), who wears a tinkling bracelet exactly like Yvonne’s and is brutalized in a similar way.
The gruesome Killings continue, and witnesses called include circus acrobats. Even though psychology professor Paul Dupin is blamed for the killings after framed by Dr. Marais and arrested, in the end it becomes learned that the Karl Malden character is a crazed scientist/zookeeper who hypnotizes a big ape (played by the make-up artist Charles Gemora in a monkey suit, who was also in the 1932 version) to kill the pretty women who reject him. The zoo keeper wants the professor out of the way to snatch his fiancée Jeanette for himself.
It’s a dull movie that goes ape shit over a contrived and senseless tale of derangement, and is desperate to get some jump scares in at all times for its 3D version.
It was launched by the studio to be another commercial success like the House of Wax, but its hopes were never realized.
REVIEWED ON 4/8/2021 GRADE: C+