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Monday, November 10, 2008


The series of atmospheric shockers made at Val Lewton’s budget boutique never quite held to its best form after RKO reassigned director Jacques Tourneur elsewhere, but this early Robert Wise work comes close. It was the final pairing for horror icons Boris Karloff & Bela Lugosi, but it’s the remarkable verbal sparring between Karloff and saturnine character actor Henry Daniell that gives this chiller its unusually intelligent tone. The title tells the tale, Karloff is a grave robber who grows too entrepreneurial, but even when the plot turns in obvious directions, the frighteningly dark look of the film (thanks to lenser Robert de Grasse who did such fine work for Lewton/Tourneur in THE LEOPARD MAN) retains a creepy edge. Watch everything come together in the remarkably simple & effective killing of a street singer whose death is abstracted into darkness and a stifled sound cue. Memorable stuff.

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