What an excellent old mad scientist film, based on William Sloane's The Edge of Running Water (1937). By the director of such classics as Murder, My Sweet (1944) & The Caine Mutiny (1954), I'm surprised The Devil Commands isn't a better known film. It is certainly one of Boris Karloff's best.
After the death of his wife, a scientist takes up a partnership with a fraud medium (Anne Revere) who thinks there is power to control the world if she could become a real communicator with the dead. She protects the scientist from interference from the outside world as he pursues his research, assisted by Karl (Ralph Penney) who after being brain-damaged by an experiment becomes a sort of Igor to Karloff's Dr. Blair.
As the scientist descends deeper into grief-stricken madness his experiments become increasingly weird. The nearby New England village is nearing the boiling point as corpses keep vanishing from the cemetery.
Perfect in its art direction, the laboratory with corpses in diving suits used as batteries to communicate with the dead is visually stunning. Karloff creates a surprisingly nuanced character for a gothic melodrama.
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