Thursday, October 15, 2009
The Devil Commands
Dr. Julian Blair (Boris Karloff) wows fellow scientists with his brainwave recording invention (I’m pretty sure this is just an early form of EEG). Using a few test subjects, including his wife, he demonstrates his invention, which reveals that every individual has their own distinct/consistent brainwave pattern. The implications being that someday everyone might be able to communicate telepathically (this is B-movie pseudoscience folks). After a freak accident kills his beloved wife, Dr. Blair discovers that his wife’s brainwaves are still registering on his machine leading him to believe that she is somehow still present in the atmosphere. After falling in with a fraudulent spiritual medium that encourages his increasingly bizarre research, he moves his entire operation to a remote village where he obsessively works to communicate with his dead wife. For reasons I never entirely understood, he concludes that he needs the brains of corpses to boost brainwave activity in order to better facilitate communication with his wife (?). This involves grave robbing, which enrages the town’s denizens, and placing the stolen corpses into gold astronaut-like suits and wiring them altogether (The above image is the only example I could find to illustrate how bizarre this looks!). As Dr. Blair comes ever closer to reaching his wife, an angry, 1940’s horror movie mob threatens to destroy all he has worked for.
The Devil Commands is another wonderful “mad scientist” discovery from the 40s and only reinforces the generally accepted opinion that Boris Karloff owned these b-movie horror roles. I was particularly tickled by this one given all the mad scientist equipment present throughout the majority of the film – no doubt borrowed from the Frankenstein sets. With the lights turned off and the volume turned high, the humming, crackling machinery with requisite lightning bolts makes for a delicious sensory experience. The science makes little sense, of course, but that’s part of the joy in watching these old films. Oddly enough, the title of this film has nothing to do with the story.
Of course it's safe, just don't move