Boris At His Strangest
Edward Garea | Branchville, New Jersey United States | 01/06/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Boris Karloff made a series of pictures for Columbia during the late 30s and early 40s, usually playing mad scientists. This is his maddest scientist of the lot. Based (very) loosely on "The Edge of Running Water," a popular story by William Sloane, the film concerns the attempts of Boris to communicate with his late, very beloved wife. To do so, he enlists the help of a medium and several stolen corpses, who are seated around a table in robotic diving helmets and subjected to huge amounts of electricity. The townspeople are growing suspicious of Boris and so he is visited by the sheriff. (Kenneth MacDonald, who later went on to star as a foil for the Three Stooges in several shorts.) The sheriff, in turn, calls Boris's long lost daughter (Amanda Duff) to come and fetch her father. But Boris decides she is perfect suited for the experiment, and so uses her to get in touch with the wife. Watch for the great scene when the maid, coaxed by the sheriff to do a little snooping, gets locked in Boris's laboratory with the seated corpses and the electricity on. Directed by Edward Dmytryk at a crisp 65 minutes."
Karloff rarity worth the bucks.
C. Cox | Bronaugh, MO United States | 09/15/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Ok so it's a lot of money to pay for a film made in 1941 with no extra's but if your a Karloff or Vintage Horror lover it's worth the money.
I thought the picture quality was good..not stunning, but as clear as watching a movie on tv.
As for the film - it's one of the most interesting Karloff made during the 30's and 40's.
But if Columbia want a big seller on their hands they'll release 'The Black Room' & 'The Man They Could Not Hang' on a double bill disc."
When the Devil Commands, Karloff Listens!
John Field | San Diego | 08/30/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Prenial favorite Boris Karloff stars as a scientist who has created a helmet then when placed on the head of a subject can transfer their brainwaves onto a graph. Kind of like a lie detector graph. He discovers that women have stronger waves of brain energy then men. He demonstrates this to a room full of fellow scientists and friends, by using his wife an an example. Her brain waves are indeed stronger and much to the amazement of his skeptical friends the graph on the wall jumps up and down! Later after his wife dies in a car accident, Boris returns to his lab and angrily throws switches and discovers that his wife's energy has returned to the lab! He now joins up with a spiritualist and a bruteing Igor type to further his experiments and try and contact his beloved wife from beyond the grave. Holds up quite well today. The seance table surrounded by corpses, the swirling spirits appearing as a funnel of energy and King Karloff in all his maniacal glory. My only complaint is the short running time of only 65 min. The last 5 minutes look rushed but still the movie wraps up nicely. Now as to the transfer...it is just o.k. Columbia started out great with their brilliant William Castle titles, but seem to care less and less about these more recent releases. The pre-print on Devil Commands could use digital cleaning up. And come on Columbia, not even the trailor!!?? and a 65 min. movie retailing for [money]!!!! It is unfortuante that some people that might have slapped down [money] and took a chance on a movie that has such a cool title will definately think twice before paying over [money]. In closing, Columbia/Tristar Look at the GHOUL released by M.G.M. and see what a great transfer should look like. Still over all recommended."
Rare and Fascinating Karloff on a Fair DVD
mackjay | Cambridge, MA | 08/29/2003
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Karloff fans should probably be happy that this rarity, which never appeared on commercial VHS, has been made available by the original studio in the new format. As it is, this DVD is definitely worth having for the movie alone. But the price should reflect the content. On the outer packaging, we are told the film has been "remastered in high definition". This may be the truth, but in remastering the movie, numerous scratches and other imperfections were certainly not remedied. Fortunately, the best parts of the film (the first 20 or so minutes and the finale) do look rather fine, and there is plenty of clarity in the image along with that silvery quality that some associate with older films. THE DEVIL COMMANDS is a low-budget production, but director Edward Dmytryk (MURDER, MY SWEET and others) knew how to establish a sinister atmosphere and sustain it for 64 minutes. This is sort of a 'haunted house meets mad scientist movie'. There are elements of science-fiction (very sketchy science) and horror (communication with the dead). The film is short and moves quickly, at less of an expense to plot development than one might think. In its own terms and within its genre, this film is quite plausible, and very enjoyable. Karloff is extremely good at portraying a well-meaning scientist and loving husband who must gradually transform into an obsessed near-maniac. "Near-maniac" because he does not willfully harm anyone, but only commits "ethical" crimes like grave-robbing. When the doctor's wife is killed in a freak accident, he puts his new theory to work, trying to communicate with her spirit in the afterlife. There are some downright creepy moments, courtesy of Karloff's character, a tragically damaged lab assistant, and the formidable presence of Anne Revere (whose name does not appear on the DVD box cover). An actress who could achieve a facial expession that would have intimidated King Kong AND Godzilla. Revere, as Mrs. Walker, a phony medium, takes charge of Karloff and his experiments, which she sees as the key to ruling the world someday. A number of misfortunes ensue and there is a marvelous climax in the darkly-lit laboratory (involving the housekeeper, well realized by Dorothy Adams who bears an uncanny resemblance to the young Gilda Radner) that is really pretty unique. The supporting cast is fine, apart from the dullards who play Karloff's daughter and her fiancé. Apart from scene selections, the DVD contains only three trailers from recent Columbia horror films. It does not contain any trailer for THE DEVIL COMMANDS. A must for Karloff enthusiasts. It should appeal to any fan of 30s and 40s horror films."