Based on a short Edgar Allan Poe story and often touted as a sequel to The Murders in the Rue Morgue, Universal would produce this film noir mystery during the early forties. Directed by Phil Rosen, a man who would end up with over 140 films to his credits as a director.
Patric Knowles (The Strange Case of Doctor Rx) returns once again for the production giant cutting a fine figure as an amateur sleuth, Paul Dupin.
Dupin is hired for his medical know-how to identify a female corpse that has been found, her face mutilated beyond recognition.
There are suspicions that it may be the infamous Marie Roget, a notorious musical comedy star who has been missing for the past 10 days.
This all falls south, however, as Marie suddenly reappears, without a thought nor care for those worried about her absence and throwing further mystery around the identity of the corpse.
A lot of this film is convoluted and shrouded in confusion, a mask that it relies upon to hide the obvious killer from the audience, especially as it never clearly labels any other notable suspects into the mix.
There is a subtle sub plot beneath the surface insinuating a possible romantic interest between Dupin and Marie’s sister Camille, but this is often swept aside by the need to amp up the thriller aspect.
It is only when Marie disappears again, quickly followed by another disfigured corpse that things begin to get more sinister and with a modern filmmaker’s gaze could really switch things in an incredibly dark direction, but the forties were a very different era.
Knowles feels more in his comfort zone this time around carrying a weight of confidence in his methods that leaves one thinking at least someone knows where the plot line is going.
The film has a lot of premise, but unfortunately it all gets lost in creating an atmosphere embedded once again between a murder mystery, and screwball comedy that it never quite hits the mark in either of these areas.
It does still have a decent underlining, which feels like it warrants another look today as a remake with the right director attached.
- Saul Muerte