Sunday, April 21, 2002


As "mad scientist" B-movies go, this is one of the better ones, with good atmosphere, above average acting, and a nice mix of science fiction and supernatural elements. Boris Karloff is a professor of science at a university who has discovered that human brains give off electrical discharge in "waves" that can be read by a lie detector-type graph. We see him give a successful demonstration for a group of doctors, using his wife as the subject, strapped into an upper-body harness-helmet contraption. He theorizes that these waves are as unique as fingerprints and could eventually be "read" in some fashion. Shortly after the experiment, Karloff's wife is killed in a fluke auto accident. Distraught, he throws himself back into his work and soon discovers that his dead wife's brain waves are still being received by his machine. He winds up working with a medium (Anne Revere) who, though a fake (exposed in a nicely played scene), exhibits strong potential for electrical discharge; together, they begin a series of experiments using dug-up bodies of the recently dead as "amplifiers" to try and read Karloff's dead wife's communications. Of course, with all this meddling in God's domain, we know that everyone involved will come to no good.

Revere, an acclaimed stage actress who later played more mainstream character parts, is excellent as the medium who is at first angry at her unmasking but who quickly takes almost an upper hand in Karloff's experiments. Her character could be seen as a serious version of Frau Blucher in YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN. She and Karloff work together well. The experiments, with a bunch of corpses seated around a table, are appropriately creepy, as is the effect of a swirling vortex of eldritch energy that appears in the middle of the table and pulls the corpses inward. Other performances are average: Amanda Duff, who plays Karloff's daughter, narrates the story but remains mostly a passive onlooker, as does Richard Fiske as her ineffective boyfriend. Ralph Penney has a couple of good scenes as the "simple" assistant who becomes an Igor-type figure. At just over an hour, you don't have much time to think about the plot loopholes. Recommended for fans of Universal 30's horror movies, although this one came from Columbia.

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