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Phantom of the Rue Morgue (1954)

With the success of The House of Wax in 1953 it seems more than obvious when viewing this 3-D effort that the  Warner Brothers studio was hoping to duplicate the box office clout of the Vincent Price classic.

phontom rue morgue

The film opens effectively with a woman screaming Murder! In the Rue Morgue! After a second murder occurs that originally was thought to be a lovers spat, Claude Dauphin arrives on scene as a french detective. Close your eyes when he’s on screen and you may think it’s Peter Sellers as Clouseau. 🙂

The trail leads to Steve Forrest starring here as a Professor who also happens to be working alongside Karl Malden. Clues continue to pile up implicating Forrest much to the dismay of his fiance Patricia Medina. Malden jumps to his defense but perhaps not whole heartedly. He may have designs on Medina.

malden in phantom

Taken from the Edgar Allan Poe source novel and sharing little with the 1932 Lugosi film we do still get a gorilla that is under the control of a madman in the sewers of Paris. Anthony Caruso is the ape’s keeper behind the scars and patch over one eye.

Once our villain goes into the Vincent Price mode of hamming it up a notch the police begin to close in with Forrest being vindicated. Next up is saving his betrothed from the clutches of our madman and preventing Paris from further bloodshed.

medina

While no House of Wax and a somewhat miscast Malden this would make for a nice double feature with the 3-D classic. One can see the obvious when it comes to the 3-D effects that would have been thrown at the audience back in the day.

Looking over Malden’s credits reveal that this is his only horror film until he turned up in a Dario Argento giallo thriller in 1971. With all due respect to Karl, the role cries out for Vincent Price or how about Claude Rains.

The murders of the title are effectively filmed with the old school style of not revealing the killer and letting our imagination work for us through most of the picture. Hat`s off to director Roy Del Ruth for allowing us that opportunity.

Way down the cast list in a supporting bit is Merv Griffin for the trivia buffs but for me, I love the character actors and it`s Anthony Caruso that jumps out for me as the animal keeper. He`s delightfully slimy, sneaky and frightened of his large pet all rolled into one.

caruso phantom

I found this one on a VHS copy if your looking to snag it.

4 Comments »

  1. I agree that Malden wasn’t ideally cast in this movie – it’s still fun though – and someone like Price could have made it all more memorable. And yes, Caruso is terrific as the trainer.

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