The Devil Commands – USA, 1941 – reviews

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‘Karloff turns killer in a horror-crammed thriller!’

The Devil Commands is a 1941 American horror film directed by Edward Dmytryk (Captive Wild Woman; Bluebeard) from a screenplay by Robert Hardy Andrews and Milton Gunzburg, based on William Sloane’s novel The Edge of Running Water. Produced and released by Columba Pictures, the film’s working title was The Devil Said Noand it was produced and released by Columbia Pictures.

Main cast:

Boris Karloff, Richard Fiske, Amanda Duff and Anne Revere.

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Plot:

Dr. Julian Blair is engaged in unconventional research on human brain waves when his wife Helen (Shirley Warde) is tragically killed in a freak auto accident.

The grief-stricken scientist becomes obsessed with redirecting his work into making contact with the dead and is not deterred by dire warnings from his daughter Anne (Amanda Duff), his research assistant Richard (Richard Fiske), or his colleagues that he is delving into forbidden areas of knowledge.

Consequently, he moves his laboratory to an isolated New England mansion where he continues to try to reach out to his dead wife…

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Reviews:

The Devil Commands is extremely ambitious schlock instead, ill-served by such crass features as heavy-handed narration … Dmytryk’s Universalesque potboiler approach works against this movie’s best qualities, but only partially compensates by infusing it with endearing goofiness.” 1000 Misspent Hours and Counting

As in The Sorcerers, Karloff defers any hint of evil, despite his (ahem) bizarre methods. It’s the woman in the team who is greedy and murderous. Revere’s performance is restrained but powerfully performed … Like many B-movies this runs barely longer than an hour, but the story is tightly-packed and may even fascinate you.” Black Hole 

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” … the film is best suited for die-hard Karloff or mad scientist fanatics. Fans in those camps will have much fun with this short, provocative film; however, others may not be as impressed as this film does rely heavily on its audience’s understanding of the sub-genre’s core questions and conventions.” Chris Justice, Classic-Horror.com

“Our growing terror mirrors that of the world’s population in 1941, watching as science and technology move from creating new wonders like radio to new horrors like the atomic bomb.” Erich Kuersten, Pop Matters

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“The performance lifts this film to unbelievable heights, as the sets, music, and costumes are nothing above average. The atmosphere is quite good, especially after Karloff’s character begins his association with the medium. Speaking of that character, Anne Revere does a splendid job with her performance as well, and should be lauded for it. She’s a real creepy lady in this one!” Billy Dunleavy, Magazines and Monsters!

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Boris Karloff More Than a Monster by Stephen Jacobs, Tomahawk Press

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Cast and characters:

Choice dialogue:

Dr. Julian Blair: “But every demonstration I have made so far clearly shows that the wave impulse a woman – the so-called ‘weaker sex’ – is much stronger and is much more regular than man’s.”

 

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