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Murders in the Rue Morgue

Murders in the Rue Morgue(1932)


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"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 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 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 Design 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 January 8, 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 Film Daily 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.