Monday, October 1, 2012

Night of Terror #2: Murders in the Rue Morgue

Edgar Allan Poe has to be one of the most popular authors in horror movies, even though he died before movies even existed (how did he even know how to tell stories so effectively? It is a mystery). And even though he was a very prolific writer, churning out lots (one of the cool things about this blog is how well-researched it is) of material in a variety of different written media, Hollywood and filmmakers elsewhere have generally focused on a small handful of his works when it gets to be movie-making time.

Which brings us to 1971's Murders in the Rue Morgue, from The Greatest Motion Picture Studio Of All Time, American-International Pictures. Murders was a late entry in that studio's famous "Poe cycle," which included classics like Masque of the Red Death and The Raven. But those classics have two crucial ingredients that this movie is sorely lacking: Director Roger Corman, and actor/movie god Vincent Price.

Instead, we have director Gordon Hessler (who comes off as very charmingly self-effacing in the DVD featurette, I especially like the way he says the word "meaningless") and the recently departed Herbert Lom, who happens to be the reason I chose this for tonight's horror movie. Sorry for BURYING YOU ALIVE under two paragraphs, Mr. Lom! Ha ha! But seriously, Lom is pretty good. RIP.

Jason Robards is also OK in the movie, and there are some potentially interesting metatextual bits involving the movie's Grand Guignol setting (the original story is pretty much disregarded save for the presence of a theatrical orangutan or gorilla or some damn primate that's actually just an actor in a suit. Sudden idea: A movie about a play-within-the-movie that features a gorilla, but the actor in a gorilla suit is played by an actual gorilla. That'd put asses in the seats, by god. Get me Zarkoff on the horn), but the movie doesn't actually do much with this, not even to get some sick laughs out of the spectacle of a bunch of respectable society types buying tickets to a show to see violence, then being horrified by actual genuine violence.

Still, it manages to hum along nicely. Definitely recommended viewing if you're interested in AIP horror. And why the hell wouldn't you be??

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