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Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

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Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) starring Jason Robards, Herbert Lom
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Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971) starring Jason Robards, Herbert Lom

My mother taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything nice at all … so this review will be mercifully short.  Yes, the film is that bad. What’s wrong with it?

Many things – first and foremost, the acting is wooden. Jason Robards is a fine actor, but his performance here is wooden, as though he’s just going through the motions. The same can be said for the rest of the cast. The pacing is slow, and and I didn’t even care for the cinematography — during a fight scene, I was thinking to myself that some different camera angles would break up the monotony.

Jason Robards in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

Another issue — although this frankly wouldn’t have mattered much, if the other problems hadn’t happened — is that the story has precious little to do with the source material, Edgar Allen Poe’s  The Murders in the Rue Morgue.  It’s more of a pastiche with  The Phantom of the Opera. As I say, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The Raven (with Vincent Price, Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff, Hazel Court and Jack Nicholson) is an excellent movie that takes great liberties with the source material; the same can’t be said here, however.


In short, the plot of the movie is this:  an early 20th-century theater troupe in Paris performing in gory, naturalistic horror plays. The director, Cesar Charron (Jason Robards, Divorce American Style), is presenting Poe’s “Murders in the Rue Morgue”. Cesar’s wife, the actress Madeline (Christine Kauffman), whose mother (Lilli Palmer) had been murdered with an ax, is haunted by nightmares of an ax-wielding man. Then, suddenly, Rene Marot (Herbert Lom, A Shot in the Dark), a former lover of Madeline’s mother thought long dead after being disfigured on stage with acid, mysteriously returns and begins murdering members and ex-members of the acting troupe, confounding the Paris police.

Herbert Lom as the Phantom in Murders in the Rue Morgue (1971)

In short, the Bela Lugosi version of Murders in the Rue Morgue is much superior.

 Quotes from Murders in the Rue Morgue

Rene Marot: Confess. Let me hear the truth, Cesar. Confess.
Cesar Charron: Yes, I killed her. I killed her.

Rene Marot: As I once begged for your kisses, now you will beg for your death.

Rene Marot: Yes, Madeleine. There stands the axe-man of your dreams.

Rene Marot: I’ve come for you, Madeleine. I’ve had my revenge, but it’s not enough. I need… I need love.

Rene Marot: Goodbye, Madeleine. But remember, the will… the will… lives on… after death.

Cast of characters

  • Jason Robards (A Thousand Clowns) … Cesar Charron
  • Herbert Lom (A Shot in the Dark) … Rene Marot
  • Christine Kaufmann (The Last Days of Pompeii) … Madeleine Charron
  • Adolfo Celi (Thunderball) … Inspector Vidocq
  • Maria Perschy (The Castle of Fu Manchu) … Genevre
  • Michael Dunn (Shock) … Pierre Triboulet
  • Lilli Palmer (The Counterfeit Traitor) … Mrs. Charron
  • Peter Arne … Aubert
  • Rosalind Elliot … Gabrielle
  • Marshall Jones … Luigi Orsini
  • María Martín … Madam Adolphe
  • Ruth Plattes … Orsini’s Assistant
  • Rafael Hernández … Member of Repertory Company
  • Pamela McInnes … Member of Repertory Company
  • Sally Longley … Member of Repertory Company
  • Luis Rivera … Member of Repertory Company
  • Dean Selmier … Member of Repertory Company
  • Virginia Stach … Member of Repertory Company
  • Werner Umberg … Member of Repertory Company
  • Xan das Bolas … Orsini’s Assistant

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