Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


Erich von Stroheim as Dr. Crespi
THE CRIME OF DR. CRESPI (1935). Director: John H. Auer.

Supposedly based on Poe's "Premature Burial," this film is only vaguely inspired by that story. Dr. Andre Crespi (Erich von Stroheim, the butler in Sunset Boulevard) is importuned to step in when his former protege, Stephen (John Bohn), is severely injured in a car accident. Stephen, now married to the lovely Estelle (Harriet Russell), was unaware that Andre was carrying a torch for her. Crespi manages to save Stephen's life, but only to save him for a diabolical plot as he's never forgiven him for taking Estelle away from him [it never occurs to Crespi that Estelle would probably not have wanted him even if Stephen hadn't entered the picture]. Crespi gives Stephen a drug which allows him to see, hear and feel everything, but won't allow him to "move an eyelash," then plans for him to be buried alive ... In his performance Stroheim alternates a bombastic delivery with lines that are casually whispered; he rarely even seems to be acting. Although it's not quite a terrible performance, he does much less with the role than actors such as Lionel Atwell or George Zucco could have. [Stroheim could give some good performances however, such as in I Was an Adventuress.] Harriet Russell is an excellent actress with a very expressive face, but she apparently only made this one movie. Dwight Frye of Dracula appears in a supporting role as a staff doctor and is as eye-poppingly intense as ever.

Verdict: Acceptable horror-melodrama. **1/2.

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