Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932)

62 mins | Horror | 21 February 1932

Director:

Robert Florey

Producer:

Carl Laemmle Jr.

Cinematographer:

Karl Freund

Editor:

Milton Carruth

Production Designer:

Charles D. Hall

Production Company:

Universal Pictures Corp.
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HISTORY

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" first appeared in book form in the collection Prose Romances of E. A. Poe (Philadelphia, 1843). The source is credited on the screen as "Based on the immortal classic by Edgar Allan Poe." According to modern sources, Robert Florey, Karl Freund and Bela Lugosi had originally been scheduled to collaborate on Frankenstein (see above) but were transferred to Murders in the Rue Morgue before production on Frankenstein started. Florey's original adaptation of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" called for a mystery close to the Poe source, but Universal wanted a horror film to feature Lugosi, so Florey wrote a new version using ideas from Frankenstein (to which he had been a contributing writer), Dracula (see above) and the 1919 German film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari . Richard Schayer's scenario editor credit was a standard one that he received as head of the Universal story department; in this capacity he made suggestions or arbitrated disputes but was not a collaborator. Among the actresses tested for the part of Camille was Bette Davis, who was rejected by Carl Laemmle, Jr. for a lack of sex appeal, according to an interview with Florey. Studio records reveal that shooting went over schedule but remained under budget. The initial popularity of Frankenstein convinced Universal to shoot an additional ten days of retakes and added scenes, which brought the total budget to $190,099. Florey lists these additional cast credits in his book Hollywood D'Hier et D'Aujourd'Hui , and in other publications: Edna Marion ( Mignette ), ... More Less

"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" first appeared in book form in the collection Prose Romances of E. A. Poe (Philadelphia, 1843). The source is credited on the screen as "Based on the immortal classic by Edgar Allan Poe." According to modern sources, Robert Florey, Karl Freund and Bela Lugosi had originally been scheduled to collaborate on Frankenstein (see above) but were transferred to Murders in the Rue Morgue before production on Frankenstein started. Florey's original adaptation of "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" called for a mystery close to the Poe source, but Universal wanted a horror film to feature Lugosi, so Florey wrote a new version using ideas from Frankenstein (to which he had been a contributing writer), Dracula (see above) and the 1919 German film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari . Richard Schayer's scenario editor credit was a standard one that he received as head of the Universal story department; in this capacity he made suggestions or arbitrated disputes but was not a collaborator. Among the actresses tested for the part of Camille was Bette Davis, who was rejected by Carl Laemmle, Jr. for a lack of sex appeal, according to an interview with Florey. Studio records reveal that shooting went over schedule but remained under budget. The initial popularity of Frankenstein convinced Universal to shoot an additional ten days of retakes and added scenes, which brought the total budget to $190,099. Florey lists these additional cast credits in his book Hollywood D'Hier et D'Aujourd'Hui , and in other publications: Edna Marion ( Mignette ), Charles Gemora ( Erik, the ape ), Torben Meyer ( The Dane ), John T. Murray ( Gendarme ), Dorothy Vernon ( Tenant ) and Michael Visaroff. According to other modern sources, the cast also included Harry Holman ( Landlord ), Christian Frank ( Gendarme ), Charles Millsfield ( Bearded man at sideshow ), Monte Montague ( Workman, Gendarme ), Hamilton Green ( Barker ), Tempe Pigott ( Crone ), Ted Billings, Charlotte Henry, Polly Ann Young and Joe Bonomo as the stunt double for Gomorra; on the crew were Set des Herman Rosse and Make-up Jack Pierce.
       New York censors and other censor boards abbreviated the death scenes of the woman of the streets, eliminating the shots of her stabbing and of her tied to the cross beams in Mirakle's laboratory. A letter dated 8 Jan 1932 from Colonel Jason S. Joy, Director of the Studio Relations Office of the AMPPA, to Carl Laemmle, Jr., producer, asked for a reduction of the screaming on the sound track when the woman of the street is murdered, stating, "...Because the victim is a woman in this instance, which has not heretofore been the case in other so-called "horror" pictures recently produced, censor boards are very likely to think that this scene is overdone in gruesomeness. We therefore suggest that you ought to consider...reducing the constant loud shrieking to lower moans and an occasional modified shriek." Some censor boards objected to the scenes which included dancing girls and to the theme of man's descent from apes. Despite a few contemporary and modern sources listing the running time as 75 minutes, there is no evidence that Murders in the Rue Morgue ever ran at this length. Nearly all sources give the running time as 62 minutes; only FD among the major trade journals indicates 75 minutes. Other film versions of the Poe story are The Murders in the Rue Morgue , produced by Paragon Photo Plays Co. in 1914 and directed by Robert Goodman (see AFI Catalog of Feature Films, 1911-20 ; F1.3089); Phantom of the Rue Morgue , produced by Warner Bros. in 1954 and directed by Roy Del Ruth and starring Karl Malden, which was a remake of the Universal version; Murders in the Rue Morgue , produced by American-International Pictures in 1971 and directed by Gordon Hessler and starring Jason Robards; and a two-hour 1986 CBS telefilm, Murders in the Rue Morgue , directed by Jeannot Szwarc and starring George C. Scott. More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Film Daily
14 Feb 32
p. 10.
Hollywood Reporter
6 Jan 32
p. 3.
Motion Picture Herald
20 Feb 32
p. 34, 38
New York Times
11 Feb 32
p. 16.
Variety
16 Feb 32
p. 24.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION COMPANY
DISTRIBUTION COMPANY
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Asst dir
Asst dir
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITERS
Scr
Scen ed
Addl dial
PHOTOGRAPHY
Process shots
ART DIRECTOR
Art dir
FILM EDITORS
Film ed
Supv film ed
MUSIC
Mus dir
SOUND
Rec supv
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
PRODUCTION MISC
Tech adv
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on the short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" by Edgar Allan Poe in Graham's Magazine (Apr 1841).
MUSIC
Selections from the ballet Swan Lake by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.
DETAILS
Release Date:
21 February 1932
Production Date:
19 October--13 November 1931
retakes and add'l scenes 10--19 December 1931
Copyright Claimant:
Universal Pictures Corp.
Copyright Date:
27 January 1932
Copyright Number:
LP2804
Physical Properties:
Sound
Western Electric Sound System
Black and White
Duration(in mins):
62
Length(in reels):
6
Country:
United States
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In Paris in 1845, Pierre Dupin and his roommate Paul, accompanied by their respective girl friends, Camille L'Espanaye and Mignette, attend a carnival. They enter the tent of Doctor Mirakle, who claims he is a scientist and exhibits "Erik," his pet ape, to illustrate a lecture on evolution--proof of which can be found, he claims, by mixing the blood of a man and an ape. Believing Erik is attracted to Camille, Mirakle orders his servant Janos, The Black One, to follow her home and obtain her address. Later that night, after witnessing a violent quarrel between two men that ends in their deaths, Mirakle takes the woman of the street the men were fighting over into his carriage. In his laboratory, Mirakle extracts a specimen of the woman's blood, only to discover it is tainted, and the woman dies screaming on the rack. Mirakle disposes of her body in the river, and she becomes the third such victim to be discovered there in a week. Pierre, a medical student, bribes the Morgue Keeper for a sample of the woman's blood, and discovers that all three women died as a result of a foreign substance being injected into their blood. When Camille then receives a bonnet from Mirakle with a note attached asking her to return to the carnival tent, Pierre convinces her that Mirakle could be dangerous. Going in Camille's place, Pierre finds Mirakle uncommunicative about his experiments and secretly follows him to the lab. Later that evening, Mirakle observes Pierre leave Camille, and when he is unable to persuade her to accompany him, Mirakle orders Erik to abduct her. Meanwhile, ... +


In Paris in 1845, Pierre Dupin and his roommate Paul, accompanied by their respective girl friends, Camille L'Espanaye and Mignette, attend a carnival. They enter the tent of Doctor Mirakle, who claims he is a scientist and exhibits "Erik," his pet ape, to illustrate a lecture on evolution--proof of which can be found, he claims, by mixing the blood of a man and an ape. Believing Erik is attracted to Camille, Mirakle orders his servant Janos, The Black One, to follow her home and obtain her address. Later that night, after witnessing a violent quarrel between two men that ends in their deaths, Mirakle takes the woman of the street the men were fighting over into his carriage. In his laboratory, Mirakle extracts a specimen of the woman's blood, only to discover it is tainted, and the woman dies screaming on the rack. Mirakle disposes of her body in the river, and she becomes the third such victim to be discovered there in a week. Pierre, a medical student, bribes the Morgue Keeper for a sample of the woman's blood, and discovers that all three women died as a result of a foreign substance being injected into their blood. When Camille then receives a bonnet from Mirakle with a note attached asking her to return to the carnival tent, Pierre convinces her that Mirakle could be dangerous. Going in Camille's place, Pierre finds Mirakle uncommunicative about his experiments and secretly follows him to the lab. Later that evening, Mirakle observes Pierre leave Camille, and when he is unable to persuade her to accompany him, Mirakle orders Erik to abduct her. Meanwhile, Pierre deduces that the victims died from injections of ape blood and runs to Camille. Arriving too late, Pierre is detained by the police until he finds Camille's mother, Mme. L'Espanaye, strangled and stuffed up the chimney by the ape. The gendarmes follow Pierre to Mirakle's lab, where Erik's blood is about to be mixed into Camille's veins. The gendarmes then shoot Janos while Erik kills Mirakle. Erik climbs onto the rooftops, carrying Camille with him. Pierre ascends after Erik and, shooting him, rescues Camille, while Mirakle ends up as one more body in the morgue. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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