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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Forgotten Horror Gems Vol. 3 - The Devil Commands

This week's installment of the series focuses on an obscure Boris Karloff film.  Now, I've spent a rather large part of my life obsessed with horror movies and there's probably no single classic monster star I like more than Boris Karloff.  Aside from being a great actor (and I'm not exaggerating in making that claim), he was also a pretty decent human being overall.

One thing you may not know about him is that he almost single-handedly started the Screen Actor's Guild.  Due to the abuse he received at the hands of James Whale in shooting the first Frankenstein film, Karloff took his complaint to the studio.  They summarily discarded it and since other acting guilds were focused on stage productions, they weren't much help to him.  He quit Universal (something people thought was insane at the time) and began working independently.  At the same time, he began laying the groundwork for a new actor's union and was able to get some big names involved right away.  With people like Groucho Marx and other major marquee stars on board, the studios had no choice but to recognize the union.  By the time he made Bride of Frankenstein with Whale, the rules of the game had changed considerably.  Instead of working 16 or even 20 hour days, he was capped out at 8 and that included time in makeup.  

That history lesson aside, he was a man who was devoted to his craft and even made his last film while suffering from late stage emphysema.  He never stopped working until he died, and not necessarily because he needed the money. Even when he was being billed as a major star, he was still making the odd film that was nowhere near blockbuster material.

Thus we get, The Devil Commands.  It's got an interesting premise.  A scientist who studies the brain finds a way to track electrical waves that every person emits.  Each person's wave reading is as individual as a fingerprint.  When his wife is killed in an accident, he finds that her wave still exists even though her body is long buried.  This gives him the idea that he may be able to speak to her from beyond the grave using scientific methods.  Mad experimentation ensues!

So, cut to the chase, Cary.  What do the girls think?

Well, one big drawback to this film is the narration  It's completely unnecessary and abundant.  The scientist's daughter literally narrates things as you see them happen on screen.  While this tended to bug both Lil and I, Karen enjoyed it.

"I like that I can sit at the kitchen table, work on my crafts and still keep up with the film." - Karen

When I asked what their favorite thing was, there was only one answer.

"The laboratory looked like a hair salon with strange dials on it." - Lilith

"Those head gear things were neat." - Karen

When I asked what they didn't like...

"Again, no devil.  Last time it was Dr. Cyclops with no cyclops.  This time it's The Devil Commands with no devil and not even any commanding." - Karen

In an effort to find something she might like I made mention that it was barely over an hour long.

"It felt longer.  In fact, all of the animals parading through Dr. Cyclops were better than anything in this movie." - Karen

"Yeah, but it was still better than that witch one (The City of the Dead)" - Lilith

So there you have it.  If you're a Karloff completist, then you need to check it out.  Otherwise, you can give this one a pass. 

Next week, we'll be looking at a much more highly regarded film even if it was on the relatively inexpensive side.  Roger Corman's The Fall of the House of Usher.

See you then!

1 comment:

Lisanne Harrington said...

I enjoy the Boris Karloff movies, but I LOVE Roger Corman! Can't wait for your review.