The Platinum Disc DVD in full-screen mode offers nothing but the movie itself, with the ability to select chapters, but for a collector of classic horror/detective stories it is a must-have film. This was a 1986, made-for-TV movie, directed by Jeannot Szwarc.
By today’s standards, the story is hokey. Historically, however, Murders in the Rue Morgue, by Edgar Allen Poe, is usually credited with being the first detective story, which makes it worthy of note.
It should be stated that there were significant adaptations made to the original story for this movie.
The mysterious murder of two women in a fourth-story apartment has occurred in Paris. The year is 1899. The women were brutalized, indicating that the perpetrator had great strength. Neighbors report that the man did not speak English. There was also no apparent access to the apartment, except by a window. The door was firmly bolted, but the windows are 40 feet above the pavement. How could this be?
The young and beautiful Claire Dupin (Rebecca DeMornay) lives in the neighborhood, and her father, Auguste (George C. Scott), is retired, but was once the best detective in France. He has become morose, and has lost his joie de vivre, and Claire tries to interest him in the case. The local police have no clues. Yet, Auguste prefers to remain depressed. However, that all changes when Claire’s fiancee, Dolph (Ian McShane), is arrested for the murders. He is a suspect simply because he was, apparently, the last person to see the two women.
Auguste Dupin sets about to apply the kinds of detecting skills that stories from this period employ. Logic and observation, Sherlock Holmes style, describes it. There is nothing wrong with this at all. Just remember that this isn’t a 21st, or even 20th, century mystery! In fact, the detecting styles of Holmes and later Hercule Poirot, were actually based on the standards set by this Poe story.
Val Kilmer also shows up in the movie as Philippe, a man who is also in love with Claire. He loves her so much that he is willing to help her father prove that Dolph is innocent, just to bring happiness to Claire. And who will “get the girl” in the end?
There have been at least five media versions of this classic tale, beginning with a movie made in 1932. Each has added its own spin to the original story. Just comparing the various works would make an interesting collection.
This version of Murders in the Rue Morgue has a great deal of merit. The costumes and settings are superb. You will believe that you are alternately walking the dark and frightening Parisian streets of 1899, and enjoying the quiet luxuries that a life with reasonable wealth could provide.
Bringing in the element of romance, including the extra suitor in the person of Philippe, gives the story more depth than the original, which focused solely on the mystery as solved by Auguste and the narrator.
The clues which Auguste discovers are shown to the audience, and you are allowed to draw your own conclusions... in other words, if you don’t already know how the story ends, you can play along.
George C. Scott has hardly a bad acting credit to his name. What can I say?... he simply, successfully, brings every character to life, whether it’s a TV movie, or a block-buster.
I would say that the other portrayals were adequate, and supportive. None of them stood out to me, particularly, for good or bad.
This film could be watched with older children. There is some violence in it. Nothing to speak of by today’s television standards, but I’d suggest pre-screening if you are going to watch it with elementary schoolers. Some kids are more sensitive to this type of thing than others. It would certainly be a creepy film to watch for Halloween, if you don’t want to go for the extreme horror films.
Running time: 92 minutes
This is available secondhand through various Amazon Marketplace vendors or at eBay in a range from about $4-10.