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SUPERNATURAL(director: Victor Halperin; screenwriters: from a story by Garnett Weston/Harvey Thew/Brian Marlow; cinematographer: Arthur Martinelli; Carole Lombard (Roma Courtney), Randolph Scott (Grant Wilson), Vivienne Osborne (Ruth Rogen), H. B. Warner (Dr. Houston), Beryl Mercer (Mme. Gourjan), William Farnum (Robert “Nickey” Hammond), George Burr McAnnan (Max), Lyman Williams (Ghost of John Courtney), Willard Robertson (Warden), Alan Dinehart (Paul Bavian); Runtime: 60; Paramount; 1933)
“A weird low-budget film from Paramount.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A weird low-budget film from Paramount about the occult, that strangely enough has Carole Lombard hobnobbing with a fake spiritualist and Randolph Scott dressed without cowboy clothes as a Manhattan society man who happens to be her fiancé. There was so much psychological hokum and gaudy supernatural tricks afoot, that they could have filled up a Greenwich Village brownstone with all the conjured fake ghosts.

The film opens with a quote from Mohammed: “We will bring forth the dead from their graves.”

It then shows a serious society psychiatrist, Dr. Carl Houston, chatting with the warden about the upcoming execution of the murderer Ruth Rogen. She is to become the fourth woman to ever die in the electric chair. Houston believes that she’s not insane, but has the power to cause others to commit murder by possessing their souls. He gets her permission and the warden’s to experiment on her dead body with ultra-violet rays, to see if he can remove that curse and prevent an epidemic of copycat murders from being committed. Ruth only wants to get her hands on the fake spiritualist Paul Bavian (Alan Dinehart), whom she loves but he couldn’t use her any more so he turned her over to the police. She plans to get revenge on him through Houston’s false promise to bring her back to life.

Dr. Houston gives life in the afterworld his seal of approval, but he cautions that it’s difficult to communicate with such spirits.

Warning: spoiler to follow in the paragraph.

When Roma Courtney’s twin brother dies and she inherits the family fortune, she goes into deep mourning. She also receives a letter from the fake spiritualist, Paul Bavian, that he can communicate with her dead brother. But Grant Wilson believes it’s a hoax to get her money as does her financial manager Nickey Hammond, but her close friend and adviser, Dr. Houston, encourages her to take Grant with her to the seance. While hearing from her brother the phony message that Hammond murdered him, she becomes accidentally possessed by the spirit of Ruth Rogen and thereby Ruth gets her revenge.

This was a silly but enjoyable feature from director Victor Halperin and his producer brother Edward. They had previously done the more lyrical horror classic White Zombie.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”