Bela Lugosi plays Orloff, an ex-doctor-cum-insurance salesman who becomes a person of interest in a homicide inquiry after the bodies of several of his clients are found in Thames.
This weird and creepy thriller is as dark as the eyes of its title. It was the first and last British horror film to receive the “H” rating for “horrific content likely to frighten or horrify children under 16”, and while that may feel a little excessive now, it remains a chilling watch.
In America it was released under the title The Human Monster, a reference to the killer’s supporting ‘muscle’ played by Wilfred Walter in Boris Karloff Frankenstein style. Blind, hideous and lumbering, this character is a relatively minor part of the film, which is a relief as he’s also one of the least…politically correct elements.
In addition to the central plot there are odd side details, including a Chicago cop, Patrick O’Reilly, (Edmon Ryan) who’s in London on an exchange programme, resulting in a bizarre 1930s, Red Heat-eque culture clash buddy cop dynamic. There’s black humour to be found, especially in the self-important Scotland Yard police force, who even, get this, have a woman in their ranks, much to O’Reilly’s amusement.
It’s not the best feat of storytelling, as most of the elements behind the ultimate explanation are shown to us near the start and it’s fairly easy to connect the dots. Its biggest strength is Lugosi himself who gives a multi-faceted performances as the insurance broker and benefactor of a local home for the blind. Shot in just 11 days, this twisted film is an interesting and chilling watch, even at 80.