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Lugosi's tour de force
on 25 October 2008
This film is something of a triumph for Bela Lugosi, who steals the plaudits for his maniacal depiction of love crazed ,Poe obsessed surgeon Dr Vollin. After saving the life of a 'beautiful' young lady, Jean Thatcher, following a road accident, he falls in love only to be spurned by her and reprimanded by her father ( the canny Judge Thatcher. Did the scriptwriter like Mark Twain or something?). He decides to exact revenge using Poe derived torture devices with the help of escaped convict Edmond Bateman(Karloff), who comes to him seeking face altering surgery but is deliberately disfigured in a ploy to enlist his assistance.
Ignoring some absurdities, for example, Jean Thatcher's frankly crap ballet dancing show, lauded as 'brilliant', or the inept notion that the Lenore of Poe's 'Raven' was real and that Poe went mad through unrequited love, the film is something of a classic. Karloff's Bateman is a highly sympathetic character, and his restrained performance contrasts nicely with Lugosi's (quite suitably) neurotic, mad Dr Vollin. The other performances are quite pedestrian, but there are some classic horror scenes that remain etched in my memory. The scene where Lugosi lets Karloff see his disfigurement for the first time in a room full of mirrors,and laughs maniacally from above, is definitely one of the best scenes in horror history. And there are quite a few others.The film has similarities with its predecessor, 'the Black Cat,' where the goodie/ baddie roles are reversed between Karloff and Lugosi, but it's a classic in its own right. Check it out- Karloff got top billing but Lugosi definitely steals the show in what is arguably his strongest career performance after Dracula.