Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

Genres - Horror, Mystery  |   Sub-Genres - Detective Film, Psychological Thriller, Whodunit  |   Release Date - Sep 1, 1971 (USA - Unknown)  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - United States   |   MPAA Rating - PG
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This riff on the famous Edgar Allen Poe story has an intriguing, experimental edge to it but is not fully successful at reinventing the Poe subgenre. The script is an imaginative affair, using the title story as a play-within-the-film and borrowing elements from various other Poe stories to flesh out its meta-storytelling concept. Unfortunately, the plotting becomes convoluted as the story rolls on and it never builds to the kind of fever-dream peaks it is obviously reaching for. Gordon Hessler's direction has plenty of visual style, making effective use of the film's Spanish locations, but his pacing is substandard and the film lacks the tension it needs. In fairness, he does manage some effective setpieces along the way, like an unnerving scene where the villain's attack on a prostitute is intercut with a frantic can-can dance routine going on downstairs. Another problem is the performances, which are a mixed bag: Herbert Lom is compelling as the tortured villain of the film but Jason Robards is fatally miscast as the head of the grand-guignol theater. Simply put, his school of acting is at odds with the gothic material being explored here and he often seems disinterested. In short, Murders In The Rue Morgue is an interesting misfire. Students of Poe-themed films might find worth a look to check out the elements that work but other horror fans will want to approach with caution.