Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) changed the literary landscape and the reading habits of generations forever with his creation of the logically-minded amateur detective Auguste Dupin in The Murders in the Rue Morgue, 1841, The Mystery of Marie Roget, 1842, and The Purloined Letter, 1844.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue present us with a dispassionate investigator, his companion/narrator, and an improbable murder in a story that echoes through the years.
Poe's stories, particularly Dupin's debut in The Murders in the Rue Morgue have been filmed multiple times dating back to 1908. Our trip to Remake Avenue looks at Universal's 1932 film and Warner Brother's 3D entry Phantom of the Rue Morgue in 1954.
The carnival is in town and Pierre and his roommate Paul (Bert Roach) escort their ladies, Camille and Mignette (Edna Marion), for an evening's entertainment. Among the sideshow offerings is Dr. Mirakle (Bela Lugosi) and Erik. Erik is a gorilla to whom Mirakle purports to speak. Mirakle makes grand claims about evolution which incite the religious element among the crowd. Mirakle declares that he is not just another sideshow barker, but a scientist whose true legacy will be in his work of combining Erik's blood with that of humans. Shades of Island of Lost Souls!
Dr. Mirakle and Erik are both intrigued by the pretty Camille. Mirakle senses she will be the woman for whom he is searching in order to achieve success in his grand experiment. The blood of a Woman of the Street (Arlene Francis) proved to be "rotten." Pierre, a frequent visitor to the morgue will find one more murder victim to add to the mystery which occupies his mind.
Lugosi's creepy make-up courtesy of Jack Pierce and the actor's performance leave no doubt that his all-consuming fervor for his theories and experiments has taken him to madness.
The authorities are blind to the coincidences Pierre discovers and slow to listen to his well-thought-out theories on the crimes. Action must be taken quickly to save Camille and quick action is sorely lacking from the gendarme.
Despite an original run time of 80 minutes, the film offered to us runs just over an hour. Those 61 minutes are filled with shadows and fog, and ghastly scenes of death and horror. One can only imagine what the censors forced the studio to leave behind.
Roy Del Ruth (Employees' Entrance) directed the 1954 3D/Technicolor version of Poe's story from the screenplay by Harold Medford (The Damned Don't Cry) and James. R. Webb (Cape Fear).
Professor Paul Dupin (Steve Forrest) is intelligent enough to solve the murders that occur in the Rue Morgue and Police Inspector Bonnard (Claude Dauphin) is clever enough to go to the experts in the medical field to assist in discovering the culprit. However, the police narrow their culprit to that same Paul Dupin. Quelle dommage!
Following the template of the 1932 Florey adaption, the motive behind the murders is given a uniquely personal twist on Poe's story. Professor Dupin's sweetheart Jeanette (Patricia Medina) is the object of obsession of the mad head of the institute, Dr. Marais (Karl Malden). Jeanette's resemblance to Dr. Marais' late wife is only part of that obsession.
The world at large sees Dr. Marais as a successful professional. Malden's mad man appears only "eccentric" while dealing with the public. It is among the creatures at his personal zoo, his association with Jacques the One-eyed (Anthony Caruso), and the trained gorilla that his madness is revealed.
Phantom of the Rue Morgue provides its own brand of enjoyment as a Hallowe'en feature involving Poe's unique villain and the mad doctor that producers seemed to think audiences required to swallow the story.
Charles Gemora (1903-1961)