Watching 1939: The Human Monster/The Dark Eyes of London (1939)

In 2011, I announced I was trying to see every film released in 1939. This new series chronicles films released in 1939 as I watch them. As we start out this blog feature, this section may become more concrete as I search for a common thread that runs throughout each film of the year. Right now, that’s difficult. 

1939 film: The Human Monster/The Dark Eyes of London

Release date:  Oct. 19, 1939 (London)

Cast:  Bela Lugosi, Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt, Edmon Ryan, Wilfred Walter

Studio:  John Argyle Productions

Director:  Walter Summers

There is a string of drowning deaths in London. Scotland Yard feels insurance salesman Dr. Orlof (Lugosi) is connected, as they are all single men with no family who have taken out insurance claims with his company. Detective Holt (Williams) and Lt. O’Reilly from America (Ryan) investigate the murders.

1939 Notes:
• Released in Oct. 1939 in London and March 1940 in the United States
• The first film to be rated “H” for horrific in London, which meant it was too horrific for children under 16.
• Bela Lugosi was in five films released in 1939. The year was reasonably good for Lugosi, as he was in higher quality movies like “Ninotchka” and “Son of Frankenstein.
• Hugh Williams was in three films released in 1939.

Hugh Williams and Bela Lugosi in “The Human Monster”

Other trivia: 
• Great Britain title was “The Dark Eyes of London.”
• Edmon Ryan’s American cop character was added in the film to attract U.S. audiences
• Based on the 1924 book The Dark Eyes of London by Edgar Wallace
• The film was shot in 11 days.
• The film was remade in West Germany as Dead Eyes of London (1961) and in Spain as The Awful Dr. Orlof (1962)

My review: Searching for the “1939 feature”:
Bela Lugosi’s career was most successful in his early years following his “Dracula” role. However, 1939 was a more successful year for him. However, you can’t tell it from this movie.

“The Human Monster” is relatively interesting, but not as exciting or engaging as other Lugosi films made the same year as “Son of Frankenstein.”

This is the first movie rated “horrific,” and for much of the film, I was questioning why. But towards the end, a blind man is drowned and tossed out a window, so I understood.

This is an eerie piece to watch in Halloween, but not the most interesting. Thankfully, it is only 75 minutes.

Check out the Comet Over Hollywood Facebook page, follow on Twitter at @HollywoodComet or e-mail at