Thursday, October 30, 2014


Asia, 1913. Drunken archeologist John Prendergast makes a bit of a scene in a bar—he's been keeping company with a temple girl named Chanda, something that is frowned upon by the natives—and later in a temple, he accidentally kills a sacred monkey; when the high priest admonishes him, Clement takes a bullwhip to him. The priest brings a stuffed gorilla to life and puts the curse of Kali (which he pronounces "Cay-lie") on Prendergast as he and Chanda flee with some stolen treasures. Twenty years later, Prof. Potter and his wife, who were financial backers on Prendergast's expedition, discover that the archeologist is living under an assumed name (Mr. Pren) with Chanda as his housekeeper; they hire a lawyer and gather the other living expedition backers in order to get their share of the loot. They include insurance salesman Jack Armstrong, pretty young nurse Ella Browning (with whom Jack flirts), the rich Mrs. Carfax and her psychic companion Stella. When they arrive at Pren's house—in which there is also a stuffed ape and a mute plumber—they discover that he is a helpless cripple and he blames it on the curse. He insists that the curse will follow anyone who tries to claim any of the money, and tells the group that they must stay at his house for a week to see for themselves how the curse will affect them before they claim their bounty. During a séance, Mrs. Carfax is found strangled ("Dead as Prohibition," says one of the characters). Eventually there is another murder and the appearance of a real ape before the mystery is solved. This Monogram "old dark house" film gets points just for being stuffed with fairly interesting plot points and for moving at a good pace. The atmosphere is creepy, the comic relief is relatively restrained, and the acting, though not distinguished, is serviceable. None of the principals, including romantic leads Ed Lowry as Jack and Verna Hillie as Ella, were known to me, though Western sidekick legend Gabby Hayes has a small role here. I'm not so crazy about the apes, but overall this was a fast and fun flick. [DVD]

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