A physician on death row for a mercy killing is allowed to experiment on a serum using a criminals' blood, but secretly tests it on himself. He gets a pardon, but finds out he's become a Jekyll-&-Hyde.
Dr. Julian Blair is engaged in unconventional research on human brain waves when his wife is tragically killed in a freak auto accident. The grief-stricken scientist becomes obsessed with redirecting his work into making contact with the dead and is not deterred by dire warnings from his daughter, his research assistant, or his colleagues that he is delving into forbidden areas of knowledge. He moves his laboratory to an isolated New England mansion where he continues to try to reach out to his dead wife. He is aided by his mentally-challenged servant Karl and abetted by the obsessive Mrs. Walters, a phony medium, who seems to exert a sinister influence over him. When their overly curious housekeeper discovers the truth about their experiments, her death brings the local sheriff in to investigate.Written by
Gabe Taverney (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Cy Schindell plays the role of Julian's hulking manservant Karl. He often used the name Al Seymour, but here is billed under the name Ralph Penney, for the only time in his career. See more »
Dr. Julian tells Mrs. Walters she had 10,000 volts pass through her body. Volts do not flow or pass, amps do. See more »
They say my father's spirit must still lives in that house. I don't know. When he seemed to be so close to what he sought, something reached for him - a warning that human beings must not try to reach beyond death! I don't know. No one will ever know, and yet perhaps the time will come when the door to infinity will open... perhaps... perhaps...
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Though the science involved in what Boris Karloff is trying to do is very flawed, in The Devil Commands Karloff gives a very good performance as a man obsessed with contacting his late wife. Unfortunately he falls into the clutches of a fake medium played by Anne Revere who takes advantage of him.
The first few minutes of the film show a happy well adjusted Karloff married to Shirley Warde with daughter Amanda Duff also getting ready to marry scientist Richard Fiske. After a car accident where Warde dies in his arms, Karloff goes off the deep end as he becomes obsessed with the idea that Warde is trying to communicate with him via electrical impulses. His efforts to combine science and the occult lead him to Revere and ultimately to tragedy.
The electrical devices in his laboratory have the familiar Frankenstein like look about them, no doubt Edward Dmytryk in one of his early directorial efforts was trying to capture the mood of the Frankenstein films from Universal. Though the rest of the cast is pretty bland, Karloff and Revere play well off each other and carry the film.
One exception to the blandness is that of Dorothy Adams whom I recognized immediately as Bessie the maid from Laura. Her part here is similar to that one and her acting has some real bite to it.
The Devil Commands is from Columbia's B unit and it's not invested with a lot of production values. Still it's a good horror film from the master himself.
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