The Devil Commands

∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗∗ 

(6/10) In a nutshell: The fourth of Columbia’s mad Boris Karloff films, this 1941 effort is probably the best in the lot, with some cool sci-fi designs, good atmosphere and splendid acting. Still, the formulaic mad scientist tropes remain and the lack of a decent budget is evident. Directed by Oscar winner Edward Dmytryk.

The Devil Commands. 1941, USA. Directed by Edward Dmytryk. Written by Robert Hardy Andrews, Milton Gunzburg. Based on the novel The Edge of Running Water by William Sloane. Starring: Boris Karloff, Anne Revere, Amanda Duff, Cy Schindell. Produced by Wallace MacDonald for Columbia. IMDb score: 6.2

This is how you made contact with the dead in 1941.

This is how you made contact with the dead in 1941. You used a medium (Anne Revere) and stuck her in a brass fish bowl with lamps on the sides.

In the late thirties and early forties horror icon Boris Karloff churned out a staggering amount of mad scientist films, some slightly better than others. Many of of them, five in fact, were made by Columbia, one of the three so-called second tier studios in Hollywood at the time, along with Universal and United Artists. I have previously reviewed The Man They Could Not Hang (1939, review) and The Man With Nine Lives (1940, review), and Before I Hang (1940) I can’t seem to be able to find online. The last entry in the line was the horror comedy The Boogie Man Will Get You (1942) with Peter Lorre. Like that one, The Devil Commands is a welcome (if only slight) deviation from form in a genre that became increasingly repetitive. Continue reading