Phantom of the Rue Morgue – USA, 1954

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Phantom of the Rue Morgue is a 1954 American 3D horror feature film directed by Roy Del Ruth (The Terror; The Alligator People) from a screenplay by Harold Medford and James R. Webb (Cape Fear), based on a very loose adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe‘s short story The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Producer Henry Blanke previously oversaw Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933, uncredited).

Warner Bros. was attempting to repeat the success they had with House of Wax the previous year.

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The movie stars Karl Malden (The Cat O’Nine Tails), Claude Dauphin, Patricia Medina, Steve Forrest (Night Gallery; Maneaters Are Loose!).

France, 1870s: A string of strange murders occur in the Rue Morgue. The authorities are baffled, but they do have one man who may have the answers, Professor Dupin.

When Dupin is approached by the police to help, he agrees. Soon a set of suspects are found, including a sailor named Jacques and a professor named Marais, who is involved in unauthorized (and bizarre) animal experiments…

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Reviews:

Phantom of the Rue Morgue is wedged between two eras; it’s a leftover from the previous decade’s gothic murder mysteries and arrived just as theaters were beginning to be overrun by atomic age monsters and aliens. However, it’s difficult not to see both this and House of Wax as stylistic antecedents to the garish productions from AIP and Hammer a decade later.” Brett Gallman, Oh, the Horror!

 

 

 … proves to be rather dull. Director Roy Del Ruth shoves numerous pop-up 3D effects out into the audience’s face with crude abandon – women screaming into the camera, a knife thrower throwing knives, a snarling ape, a dead body, a trampolinist and even one of the Flying Zacchinis trapeze artists.” Moria

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“Poe would never recognise it, but in its own way, aided by 3-D cinematography, the movie is good fun.” Alan Frank, The Horror Film Handbook

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“The abysmal dialogue is full of psychoanalytical bilge, the murders are repetitive in the extreme (the best scene, paradoxically, is one in which the ape attacks a window-display dummy), and the 3-D effects are tamely restricted to the usual hail of hurled knives and clutching paws.” Phil Hardy, The Aurum Film Encyclopedia: Horror

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Cast and characters:

  • Karl Malden as Dr. Marais
  • Claude Dauphin as Inspector Bonnard
  • Patricia Medina as Jeanette
  • Steve Forrest as Professor Paul Dupin
  • Allyn Ann McLerie as Yvonne
  • Anthony Caruso as Jacques the One-Eyed
  • Veola Vonn as Arlette
  • Dolores Dorn as Camille
  • Merv Griffin as Georges Brevert
  • Paul Richards as Rene the Knife-thrower
  • Rolfe Sedan as LeBon (as Rolphe Sedan)
  • Erin O’Brien-Moore as Wardrobe Woman
  • Charles Gemora as Sultan, the Gorilla
  • The Flying Zacchinis as Themselves

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Choice dialogue:

Dr. Marais: “The more I see of people like this, the better I like my zoo!”

Dr. Marais: “But as a psychologist as well as a zookeeper, I feel it is better to face up to an emotion than lock it inside.”

Jeanette: “Well, no wonder you understood her so well. You’re as mad as she is!”

Wikipedia | Image credits: Wrong Side of the Art!

Related: Going Ape! A Short History of Who’s Inside the Monkey Suit – article

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