Drums of Jeopardy (1931)

Article #834 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-27-2003
Posting Date: 11-24-2003
Directed by George B. Seitz
Featuring Warner Oland, June Collyer, Lloyd Hughes

A mad scientist takes revenge on a family of nobles when his daughter dies as a result of having had an affair with one of them.

Title check: The “Drums” of the title are actually gems from a necklace that are sent to the members meant to die. They end up playing very little role in the story.

I found this to be a very interesting variation on the typical horror revenge plot. The movie spends more than the usual amount of time establishing the reasons for the doctor’s desire of vengeance, and also establishes that he doesn’t know which of the family members is responsible, thereby making it more understandable as to why he seeks vengeance on the family as a whole. It’s actually more of an action thriller than either a horror or science fiction movie, though it has elements of both. My favorite character, however, is the comic relief Aunt played by Clara Blandick, whose sensibilities are so offended by the mad doctor’s actions that she vows to give him a piece of her mind, and she actually does this (in a hilarious scene) when she is captured.

One interesting item about this movie is the character name of Warner Oland’s mad doctor; he is Boris Karlov. That someone would like to capitalize on Karloff’s name as a horror icon is no surprise; what is odd is that this movie may actually predate FRANKENSTEIN, which is the movie that made Karloff famous. Is there an explanation? I have one. The character’s name was Karlov already; he is known as Gregor Karlov in the 1923 version of the movie. Director George B. Seitz and Warner Oland had worked together once before, in a 1917 movie called THE LIGHTNING RAIDER, a movie which also featured an actor by the name of Boris Karloff. I believe that when they made this movie, they remembered the actor who had almost the same last name as the title character, and decided to use borrow Boris’s first name as well.

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