Mystery of Edwin Drood (1935)

Article 2621 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 6-8-2008
Posting Date: 10-16-2008
Directed by Stuart Walker
Featuring Claude Rains, Douglass Montgomery, Heather Angel
Country: USA

A choirmaster with an opium addiction is secretly averse to his nephew’s impending marriage to the woman they both love. Another man arrives on the scene and falls in love with the same woman, resulting in a confrontation that stops just short of murder. Then, when the nephew disappears, an investigation is begun to find out if he’s alive, and if not, who killed him.

I find this attempt by Universal to give an unfinished novel by Charles Dickens something of a horror spin to be rather interesting, if not entirely successful. I remember the movie popping up on my local Creature Feature when I was young, and being very quickly bored with what seemed to me another bogus non-horror movie trying to pose as one. I still feel that way a little; though there are some horror touches here (there’s a sense of decadence, some eerie sets, and a great storm sequence), it’s really more of a crime film than anything else. Fortunately, it’s anchored by a great performance by Claude Rains and a good one by Douglass Montgomery. It does manage to preserve a lot of the Dickens flavor, which is nice, though it does turn out to be a mixed blessing. Some of Universal’s supporting players are a bit on the hammy side, and when you combine them with some of Dickens’s broadly drawn characters, the results can be so caricaturish that they’re impossible to believe; the mayor’s buffoonish pompousness is so thick in this movie that it’s a major distraction. Still, it’s quite interesting to see the subject of drug addiction being treated in a movie that was released while the motion picture code was in effect, and the movie is overall rather satisfying.


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