Thursday, October 02, 2003


It's October again and time to focus on horror and sci-fi films. This one is a real classic. Actually, it's one of two classics that director John Brahm did with actor Laird Cregar (the other, HANGOVER SQUARE, I hope to review later this month). Based on a well-known pulp thriller from 1913, this is a fictionalized story of Jack the Ripper. During the height of the Ripper's reign of terror, Cregar, a mysterious doctor who specializes in pathology, comes to lodge at a respectable house run by husband and wife Cedric Hardwicke and Sara Allgood (with lovely daughter Merle Oberon also living there). Slowly, we (along with Hardwicke and Allgood) come to suspect that Cregar may be the Ripper. At first, Cregar, who carries around an ominous black bag and conducts odd experiments in the attic, falls under some suspicion but the family trusts him and he begins to form an attachment to Oberon, a dance hall girl on the verge of bigger things. She seems to genuinely like Cregar as a friend, but is dallying with George Sanders, a Scotland Yard inspector who is on the Ripper's trail. Is Cregar the infamous killer, and is Oberon in trouble? Or is he a red herring? The spooky atmosphere, with lots of shadows and fog, is kept up throughout, along with many interesting stylistic touches, like shots framed by doors, or up and down stairs; a mirror motif is present as well, with one particularly creepy scene of Cregar and Oberon reflected in multiple mirrors. There's an amusing scene of Sanders flirting with Oberon as he takes her on a tour of the Black Museum, a place filled with dastardly crime and torture implements. The whole cast, especially Cregar, is fine, though Oberon isn't always successful as a common show girl. Very atmospheric; great October viewing.

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