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Dr. Renault's Secret

USA 1942
produced by
Sol M. Wurtzel (executive) for 20th Century Fox
directed by Harry Lachman
starring J. Carrol Naish, John Shepperd (= Shepperd Strudwick), Lynne Roberts, George Zucco, Mike Mazurki, Jean Del Val, Arthur Shields, Eugene Borden, Jack Norton, Bert Roach, Max Willenz, Charles La Torre, Charles Wagenheim, and as the gorilla Ray Corrigan (= Ray 'Crash' Corrigan)
screenplay by William Bruckner, Robert F. Metzler, based on the novel Balaoo by Gaston Leroux, music by Emil Newman, David Raksin

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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When American scientist Larry (John Shepperd), on his way to meet his fiancee Madelon (Lynne Roberts) at her mad scientist dad Renault's (George Zucco) mansion, stops at an inn for the night, someone (Jack Norton) is killed at the place, and everything suggest that it was probably Larry who was meant to be killed. There are two main suspects in the case, Noel (J. Carrol Naish) and Rogell (Mike Mazurki) - Dr Renault's butler and gardener, respectively.

When questioned by the police though, Renault strongly disputes either of his employees could have had to do with it, even though Rogell is a (hardly) reformed criminal, and Noel is ... just really really weird. That night, the guard dog is found hanged, and again, Rogell and Noel are the prime suspects, and again Renault refuses to blame either of them. However, behind everyone's back, Renault locks Noel up in his lab and forbids him to come out again until his daughter is happily married to Larry and off to America, suggesting that Noel feels unnaturally attached to Madelon, and he might have killed both the dog and the man at the inn out of jealousy.

While Renault, Larry and Madelon are all out at a village fair though, Noel breaks out, follows them there, and kills two men (Max Willenz, Charles La Torre) who have ridiculed him. Larry takes Madelon back to the mansion and finds Renault's journal detailing Noel's origins - he was originally a gorilla ("played" by Ray 'Crash' Corrigan in a couple of photographs) whom Renault has turned into a man, to ... well, to prove what a great scientist he is. Renault catches Larry with the journal, but then enter Noel, who knocks out Larry and kills Renault - but in the meantime, Rogell has kidnapped Madelon for no reason at all, and his animalistic instincts make Noel follow them to the old windmill - Rogell's home away from home -, where he kills Rogell before being gunned down by the police.

 

If you're into vintage horror movies, you'll probably at least enjoy this one, which, while (loosely) based on a lesser known novel by Gaston Leroux, mixes motives of the Universal Frankenstein-series with elements from H.G. Wells' The Island of Dr. Moreau and plenty of pulp mainstays - but the resultis a very middle-of-the-road, slightly dull piece of horror that's rather old-fashioned and predictable in approach, doesn't handle either it's mystery or its science fiction elements too interestingly, and it's carried by a cookie-cutter direction ... which of course comes across as charming for vintage horror lovers like myself looking for a typical movie from its era, but hardly spells masterpiece. At least Zucco, Naish and Mazurki give memorable performances, while the rest of the cast, well, varies in quality.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
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love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

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Out now from
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On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD