THE DARK EYES OF LONDON (1939) Reviews and Network Blu-ray review

 

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The Dark Eyes of London is released on Blu-ray in the UK by Network on 11th October 2021. Special Features:

Brand-new audio commentary with Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
Kim Newman and Stephen Jones discuss Lugosi’s work in the UK at the Edgar Wallace pub in London
US title sequence
US trailer
Image gallery
Limited edition booklet by academic Adrian Smith (not the owner/editor of this site, Adrian J Smith)
Limited edition O-card (Blu-ray exclusive)
Limited edition poster postcards (Blu-ray exclusive)
Region code: B

Blu-ray review:

The Dark Eyes of London looks superb on this Network Blu-ray release having been remastered from the negative. After years of so many duff releases, this crime/horror film can be fully appreciated as a pretty impressive production, with keenly used close-ups and expressive lighting, despite its obviously low budget and it being shot at a tiny studio. So much of the detail – such as backgrounds and even the texture of the actors’ outfits – previously unseen is now apparent.

Extras include an infectiously fun and fantastically detailed audio commentary by Kim Newman and Stephen Jones who have great chemistry together. Their knowledge of cinema of the era, all of the casts’ careers and Edgar Wallace’s fiction adds really adds value to their nicely comedic observations. They also discuss censorship issues, all the different releases of the film and subsequent German krimi takes on the same novel. The pair also get together for a video extra shot in the Edgar Wallace pub in London to chat about Bela Lugosi’s appearances in this and other British films.

The upgrade in the quality of the film and the enjoyable extras make this Network Blu-ray well worth picking up!

Adrian J Smith, MOVIES and MANIA

Meanwhile, here’s our previous coverage of the film itself:

The Dark Eyes of London – aka The Human Monster – is a 1939 British horror film directed by Walter Summers (Chamber of Horrors) from a screenplay co-written with Patrick Kirwan and producer John Argyle (as J.F. Argyle). Jan Van Lusil provided additional dialogue. It is an adaptation of the 1924 novel of the same name by Edgar Wallace.

The John Argyle Productions movie stars Bela Lugosi, Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt (Sexton Blake and the Hooded Terror), Edmon Ryan, Wilfred Walter and Alexander Field.

Plot:

In London, philanthropist Doctor Orloff (Bela Lugosi) volunteers his services at a home for blind men, which serves as a cover for his notorious exploits. On the side, Orloff runs an insurance company that offers loans to desperate, unattached men, whom he convinces to list him as a beneficiary.

With the aid of a blind man from the home, Orloff then coldly murders the men to collect the insurance. Although the police begin an investigation, Orloff brazenly continues the brutal killings…

Reviews:

“For a 75 minute B-movie that relishes its gruesome inventiveness, this is surprisingly effective and stands up well today, both as a detective yarn and a horror flick.” Apocalypse Later

“The film carries its nationalistic credentials on its sleeve, using London as the backdrop for a series of murders committed near the River Thames. But the plot is still contrived in a way that introduces the American Lieutenant O’Reilly (Edmon Ryan) as early as possible, in an obvious nod to US audiences.” BFI Screen Online

“If often just silly, this is still an entertaining movie that occasionally provides a real shiver or two, and Lugosi is great value.” Derek Winnert

“This is quite an interesting mystery-thriller with strong horror overtones.” Fantastic Movie Musings and Ramblings

“Bela Lugosi does his hammily contorted thing, glaring at people with eyes wide open and leaving thick pauses in the middle of sentences, even entire words. The sets are interesting, the dockland scenes convincing, leaving one unsure whether they are sets or real locations. However, The Dark Eyes of London never amounts to more than routine.” Moria

” …not only is Wilfred Walter more unglamorous than even Charles Laughton as the hunchback but is totally blind in the bargain. Consequently, his homicidal technique is the more deliberative and, so to speak, stately, giving the camera plenty of time to dwell with sadistic relish on the more recherché details of his method of doing his victims in.” The New York Times, March 25, 1940

“Some performances here and there are a bit spotty, like a hilariously bad drunk, but that turns out to be intentional, and it does garner a laugh out of sheer ridiculousness […] The Human Monster is by no means perfect, but it’s got enough good in it to make up for any shortcomings. Lugosi delivers and proves in this last act why you don’t wanna mess with him!” Not This Time, Nayland Smith

“Seen for decades in poor public domain dupes, the film was eventually restored and highlighted a very enjoyable, shivery horror yarn that saw its profile rise above its previous dismissal, and can be recommended on that level.” The Spinning Image

“There a few standout moments, including the scene where Lugosi (heartlessly) destroys the hearing of one his blind accomplices – so that the chap won’t be able to hear the questions posed by the police. But the best part of The Human Monster is its climactic end scene: dirty – but perfect! – justice.” The Terror Trap

” …weirdly atmospheric, with good use made of the Thames mudflats and a splendidly macabre denouement involving two blind henchmen…” Time Out Film Guide

“Lugosi turns in one of his best performances here, managing to underplay his role (unusual for him), thus balancing the more contrived moments in the script. Actor Wilfrid Walter, who plays Lugosi’s grotesque, blind assistant Jake, helped create the effective makeup for his character.” TV Guide

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“The character of Jake is a classic horror movie henchman, large and brutish, and the film is – for the time – unexpectedly grim on occasion, with the dead bodies looking genuinely unsettling. Lugosi is on good form, though some of his long, drawn-out sentences and intense stares into the camera are perhaps overdone […] But this is amongst his best films, one that still holds up surprisingly well today.” Warped Perspective

US Blu-ray release:

VCI Video released a Collector’s Edition Blu-ray of The Human Monster (US title) restored in 2K on October 29, 2019. Bonus features:

Extensive Poster and Photo Gallery
Original U.S. Re-issue Theatrical Trailer
Archival Video ‘Intimate Interview with Bela Lugosi’
Liner Notes by film historian Patrick McCabe
Commentary Track by film historian, author and Bela Lugosi expert, Gary Don Rhodes
Commentary Track by film historian David del Valle and author, screenwriter and monster kid, Phoef Sutton

Cast and characters:

Bela Lugosi … Doctor Feodor Orloff
Hugh Williams … Detective Inspector Larry Holt
Greta Gynt … Diana Stuart
Edmon Ryan … Lieutenant Patrick O’Reilly
Wilfred Walter … Jake
Alexander Field … Fred Grogan
O.B. Clarence … Professor John Dearborn (voice) (uncredited)
May Hallatt … Police Constable Griggs (uncredited)
Bryan Herbert … Police Sgt. Walsh (uncredited)
Arthur E. Owen … Dumb Lou (uncredited)
Charles Penrose … Morrison, an undercover detective (uncredited)
Gerald Pring … Henry Stuart (uncredited)
George Street … Commissioner, Scotland Yard (uncredited)
Julie Suedo … Orloff’s Secretary (uncredited)

Filming locations:

Welwyn Studios, Welwyn Garden City, Hertfordshire, England

Technical details:

73 minutes
Black and white
Audio: Mono
Aspect ratio: 1.37: 1

Theatrical release:

Dark Eyes of London was released by Anglo Amalgamated Film Distributors in November 1939 in Britain and became the first British film to receive the “H” rating for “Horrific”.

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The movie was released in the USA in 1940 by Monogram Pictures as The Human Monster.

Trailer:

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