Sunday, November 15, 2009

'The Human Monster' is a humongous bore

The Dark Eyes of London (aka "The Human Monster" and "The Dead Eyes of London") (1940)
Starring: Bela Lugosi, Hugh Williams and Greta Gynt
Director: Walter Summers
Rating: Three of Ten Stars

Bela Lugosi plays Dr. Orloff, a physician turned insurance broker who is issuing life insurance policies to disabled men with himself as the beneficiary and then murdering them. His scheme goes awry when one of his victims failed to mention that he has a daugther... and she has just happened to return to England after living for many years in the United States (played by Greta Gynt). Orloff needs to act fast and subtely, or this meddling relative and the dashing Scotland Yard inspector (Hugh Williams) who is her would-be love interest will unmask him as a multi-murderer for sure.

"The Dark Eyes of London" is a dreary, dreadfully boring movie with too much wooden dialogue and too little forward movement in the story as the film unfolds. To make matters even worse, the story relies too much on coincidence to get the story going and to keep it moving. (I can live with the daughter returning just after her father has died, but it's too much for me that she happens to run into the inspector who will work her father's murder-case, or that... I could continue, but I might spoil what little suspense that "The Dark Eyes of London" actually manages to build for the viewer.)

It's too bad the director didn't have a better sense of pacing, and the writers didn't have a better talent for dialogue, because the actors all deliver good performances, there is some nice very nice photography and effective staging of scenes, and the brutal picture painted of the everyday world is also interesting for a movie of this vintage.

Of particular note is Bela Lugosi. Like so many other movies he was featured in, he transcends the awfulness of the material and delivers a fantastic performance. He is in rare form in this picture, projecting a degree of evil that matches the villain he played in "The Raven." The movie isn't all that good, but Lugosi is terrific.

I know there are some reviewers who praise "The Dark Eyes of London" as a brooding masterpiece with a sinister and evil villain. I found it boring, with Lugosi being great but not enough to make the film worthwhile.

Maybe someone out there can tell me what I missed while watching "The Dark Eyes of London"?

Trivia: "The Dark Eyes of London" was the last film to be produced and released before the outbreak of WW2. Then, the British film industry turned its attention to doing its part to battle the Axis Powers.