Directed by Roy Del Ruth [Other horror films: The Terror (1928), The Alligator People (1959)]
While pedestrian in many ways, Phantom of the Rue Morgue is a perfectly competent example of a decent horror movie during a period in which the genre was a little dry. That fact, along with the film being in atypical color, does lend the movie a little credence.
Personally, I’ve never been that big a fan of Murders in the Rue Morgue (1932). It’s just one of those classics that isn’t my cup of tea. I’ve not read the Edgar Allan Poe story both that and Phantom of the Rue Morgue were based on either, so though there were a few things against me enjoying this, when I first saw Phantom of the Rue Morgue years back, enjoy it I did.
It’s not amazing or anything, though. It’s just a well-made movie with nice color (not a common sight for American horror films from this time period) and decent performances. Karl Malden hasn’t really done much in the horror genre, but he does great here playing his role in the vein of Island of Lost Soul’s Charles Laughton and The Most Dangerous Game’s Leslie Banks. Steve Forrest made for a good sympathetic character, and while perhaps not intentional, Claude Dauphin did well as a dangerously idiotic and abusive police inspector.
There is a decent mystery for a good portion of the film, or at least there would be, if I hadn’t already seen the 1932 version nor had a working knowledge of Poe’s more well-known works. Even so, the first half of the film is pretty good, with some fun sequences (such as a character chasing someone on the rooftops), and while there’s nothing wrong with the finale, it just seems more-of-the-same, and not all that remarkable.
Phantom of the Rue Morgue is a decent movie. I thought so when I first saw it, and I still do. I don’t really think it’s above average, but it’s certainly not below, and if 50’s horror is something you need more of in your life, there are worse ideas out there then giving Phantom of the Rue Morgue a try.