director Robert Florey
Compared to Edgar G. Ulmer’s The Black Cat (1934), this 1932 Béla Lugosi version of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue” is downright exacting. But only because the Ulmer film has zero relationship to its source material.
Murders in the Rue Morgue was Poe’s first detective story and perhaps the first detective story of all time. It’s typically crazy, wherein a “locked room” mystery (a murder is committed in a room that is locked from the inside entirely — how did it happen? how did the killer escape?) but with the weirdest explanations ever. It was an escaped orangutan! Of course!
Well, that simply wasn’t weird enough for Robert Florey and crew. This time the animal (a gorilla not an orangutan) is the henchman for a crazed sideshow exhibitionist (Lugosi, with a hilarious monobrow), who is kidnapping beautiful women and trying to inject them with ape blood for reasons unknown.
It’s some pretty seriously weird stuff. And quite passable and diverting as well. Apparently it was pared down rather heavily, from 80 to 61 minutes, and one can only imagine what hair-raising bizarreness failed to pass the “Pre-Code” Hollywood code.