Monday, November 05, 2012


As other reviewers have noted, this movie zips through several different genres, with horror, the one genre Universal pushed it as, being the least of them. The film opens on dark streets, like a film noir: Lionel Atwill is a doctor who is experimenting with suspended animation in his office in San Francisco (on Market Street, hence the title). He pays a man who is dire financial straits to be his guinea pig, but when the man dies, the cops come after him. Atwill, in disguise, escapes on an ocean liner headed for New Zealand (genre shift to shipboard mystery) where he kills a detective who was on his trail. When a fire breaks out, the film becomes a shipwreck story as Atwill and a handful of passengers wind up on an island inhabited by natives who don't much like visitors. However, Atwill manages to bring an island matriarch back from the brink of death, so the tribe lets the group live. Atwill is determined to continue his experiments, and the natives revere him, but the rest of the group wants to go back to civilization. Tensions mount, deaths occur, and a happy ending is in store for most everyone but the title character.

This is a movie I have long wanted to see; it used to air quite frequently on our local Chiller Theater, but usually as the second feature at 1 a.m., by which time I would be sound asleep. It's available now as part of the Universal Cult Horror Collection, though as I've noted, it's not really horror--only the "mad doctor" element allows it in, just barely. Atwill plays the part with relish, but the film is hampered by lumbering comic relief (Nat Pendleton and the usually reliable Una Merkel) and dull romance (Richard Davies and the usually reliable Claire Dodd). Ultimately it best belongs in the jungle melodrama category, and as such it has its moments, though the film is most atmospheric before the shipwreck. Also with Hardie Albright and John Eldredge. Mostly for fans of Atwill.  [DVD]

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