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Usually when you see that a 1940’s Universal film is an adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story the expectation is for a horror film, but Poe was much more than just a master of the macabre. His work spanned many types of fiction and he is credited with actually creating the genre of ‘detective fiction’ with his brilliant Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841. In that iconic tale a clever man interested in puzzles bends his sharp mind to the task of solving an inexplicable murder. This character, Auguste Dupin, would appear in two subsequent Poe stories and is one of the inspirations for Conan Doyle’s later Sherlock Holmes. Universal had very loosely adapted the first of these mysteries in 1932 with Bela Lugosi and a man in an ape suit adding hideous pre-code horrors to the proceedings. The Mystery of Marie Roget was the second of the Dupin tales and it seems clear that Universal thought they could once again capitalize on the famous Poe name to bring home the dollars, only without quite so much of the grisly tone of the earlier film.

 
Troy and I pull the film apart looking for its darker elements. We discuss the fact that this is a fairly straightforward mystery that at times feels like a well mounted period drama that just happens to involve a few murders. The nastier details of the victim’s mutilated faces are kept offscreen entirely even as that plot element is needed to both set up a few red herrings and point the way toward the actual killer. We talk about the lavish look of the film, the interesting cast and speculate on who might have made a better onscreen Dupin. The excellent dialog between actors Patrick Knowles and Lloyd Corrigan is the highlight of the picture pointing the way toward an excellent future Universal film series. As usual, we also get a lot of fun out of reading reviews of this movie from contemporary critics. We are developing some favorites among the newspaper writers of the 1940’s! 

If you have any questions or comments the show can be reached at thebloodypit@gmail.com or over on the FaceBook page. We’ll be continuing our 1940’s Universal horror series after the holidays so let know what you think. Thank you for listening to the podcast! 

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