Murders in the Rue Morgue is a 1932 American Pre-Code horror film, very loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Bela Lugosi, one year after his performance as Dracula, portrays a lunatic scientist who abducts women and injects them with blood from his ill-tempered caged ape. Karl Freund’s cinematography and Robert Florey’s direction have been praised by critics and characterized as “expressionistic” by Leonard Maltin. Despite the film being pre-Code, violent sequences prompted Universal to cut its running time from 80 minutes to 61 minutes.
This film was produced as a compensatory package for Lugosi and Florey, after both were dropped from 1931’s Frankenstein. Lugosi had originally been cast as Dr. Frankenstein, and the film was to be directed by Florey, who had been developing the coveted project. Lugosi was subsequently demoted to play the mute monster, however, which he claimed to have turned down. Florey was replaced as director by James Whale, as producer Carl Laemmle was both unsatisfied with Florey’s work on the project, and had given Whale first choice of any Universal property at the time. The box office results for Murders in the Rue Morgue were disappointing, and Lugosi’s original Universal contract for Dracula was not extended. Today, however, the film is generally well-regarded by critics and is considered a cult classic.