THE TERM ‘loosely based on the novel’ can’t be stressed enough, for Universal’s adaptation of the Edgar Allan Poe novel.
The raw ingredients are in there with a character called Dupin, the “hero” of the piece, who pieces together a suspicious murder; confusion over the language of the Killer that is overheard by witnesses, and a murderous ape.
Yep – that’s right.
A killer ape.
In the films version however Dupin is not a detective, but a medical student and the love interest for a potential victim, Camille.
And whilst, the killer ape component remains, the ape is more of a puppet to Bela Lugosi’s Dr Mirakle.
This would be Lugosi’s performance following Dracula, but is sadly lacking the air or mystery and menace that he delivered for said piece and instead we are treated with something that is borderline creepy.
Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, just not packed with any punch that would ordinarily set one on edge.
This is the first time that Universal would visit Poe’s work in the Gothic era and one can’t help but feel that this movie was an attempt to sandwich this story and infuse it with the recipe that made Dracula and Frankenstein such big hits.
And therein lies the problem.
We’re left with a crowbarred romance and a lot of preamble at the beginning of the film, which leads nowhere and instead of developing character, makes you feel less inclined to support them at the end.
You almost feel sorry for the chimp that has been caged and defies his masters orders to go on a killing rampage.
If it were not for the occasional glimmer of sinister and evil conveyed by Lugosi, Murders on Rue Morgue would be quickly forgotten, but as such it it is integral to the journey that Universal would undertake to produce such horror gems as The Mummy, Bride of Frankenstein, and The Invisible Man.
– Paul Farrell