Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) was very loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and starred Bela Lugosi, one year after his performance in Dracula (1931). In this film Lugosi portrays a mad scientist who kidnaps women and then injects them with blood from his captive ape.
The director, Robert Florey received high praise for the film’s highly expressionistic style. Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932) would be Florey’s first venture into the horror genre, but not his last, he would later direct another horror classic The Beast with Five Fingers (1946). During his career, which lasted over 25 years, Florey directed more than 50 movies. His most popular film was the first Marx Brothers feature The Cocoanuts (1929).
 Karl Freund also received praise for his cinematography in the film. He had also worked on such horror classics as The Golem (1920), Metropolis (1927) and Dracula (1931). He is also noted for directing such films as The Mummy (1932) starring Boris Karloff and Mad Love (1935) starring Peter Lorre. He would later work on the I Love Lucy (1951) televisions series and would develop the three-camera system used to shoot television situation comedies.
Erik the gorilla was played by Charlie Gemora, who played apes in a number films from the silent era to the 1950’s, also worked as a make-up artist. Joe Bonomo did the stunt work for the ape and the close-up shots were done with a real chimpanzee.
 Noble Johnson who was credited as Janos “The Black One” was friends with fellow actor Lon Chaney Sr. They had been schoolmates in Colorado. Johnson founded his own studio in 1916 and produced what was at that time called "race films", movies made for the African-American audience, which was largely ignored by the "mainstream" film industry.
Although the film was produced during the pre-Code era, Universal cut the film from its original 80 minutes down to 61 minutes due to the excessively violent sequences.

According to some film historians this film was meant as a sort of consolation prize for Lugosi and Florey, who had both been dropped from Frankenstein(1931).  Robert Florey who had originally been assigned as director for the film,  wanted Lugosi to play the role of Dr. Frankenstein but, Carl Laemmie Jr., the producer, did not want Lugosi for that role and recast him in the part of the creature. Lugosi was unhappy with playing the monster under heavy make-up and no dialogue. After several screen-tests with Lugosi as the creature, Laemmle didn't like the results and fired both Florey and Lugosi. Laemmle then hired up and coming director James Whale who in turn cast Boris Karloff in the role of the creature.
Unfortunately, this film proved to be more of a curse than a consolation for Bela Lugosi. Box office returns for the film were well below Universal’s expectations and the studio blamed the star of the film.  As a result Lugosi's original Universal contract was not extended, which would later prove devastating to his career. Despite its poor reception upon its initial release, the film is now highly regarded by both horror fans and critics alike and has become a cult classic.

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