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» » The Scotland Yard Mystery (1934)

Short summary

A mad scientist devises a formula that puts people into a zombie-like trance to do his bidding.

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  • comment
    • Author: Simple fellow
    This film, as many did at the time, had a title change upon arriving on the US shores. It was re-tilted "The Living Dead". The original British title barely wins in a squeaker as the better one and neither is really apt. There is no mystery in this film. The criminal mastermind is revealed within the first ten minutes and it then operates as a suspense picture, and not a bad one.

    Sir Gerald du Maurier in one of his few film appearances is the Commissioner and George Curzon is the criminal mastermind, using a job as a police doctor to get inside information on an insurance scam he is running. It is similar in ways to "Dark Eyes of London", the Edgar Wallace tale that followed to the screen five year later. Curzon's doctor has developed a serum that puts people in a death-like state. Once "dead", they can collect their life insurance money and he gets his share. There are plenty of plot holes that are left untied at the end, but it is an entertaining film with a few horror overtones to somewhat justify the horror-inspired title it had in the US.

    Du Maurier is quite good in his role. It is said his performance of Captain Hook on the British stage is what inspired a very young Boris Karloff to become an actor. It is easy to see why. Du Maurier has a very reserved style and gives the best performance in the picture. Right behind him is Curzon as a very sinister villain who seems to be able to look at himself in the third person as he very elaborately tries to escape in the end. The pace and camera-work are good and this is entertaining for fans of this era's suspense films. If you're looking for horror you might be a bit disappointed - there are only two brief graveyard sequences.
  • comment
    • Author: Dark_Sun
    Chief Inspector Stanton of Scotland Yard is your no-nonsense, stiff upper lip, bacon and eggs sort of chap, as he deftly directs his men in the course of their duties. But as he once admits to Masters, a forensic doctor employed by the Yard, he's for anything that will get him the man he's after. When faced with the toughest case of his career and his daughter's life in danger, will he go outside the law?

    The Scotland Yard Mystery is a mystery only to the protagonists (Dr. Masters is quickly revealed as the criminal mastermind), which makes it more a police procedural/thriller with touches of horror. Given its age (1934) and pedigree (apparently based on a play), it is expectedly a creaker. Its talkiness, tepid directing, and regular lack of music all work against it, yet is buoyed by the performances. Gerald du Maurier (Stanton) at first took me aback, as you almost think he's reading his lines, like a 1934 British Jack Webb. Somehow it works. George Curzon (Masters) does a fine job as Stanton's opposite, cultured and sly in a Lionel Atwill ("Man Made Monster", "Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon") sort of way, and the plot eventually brings their very different personalities into conflict. The rest of the cast are eminently competent, with a nod to Grete Natzler and her exotic Austrian accent, well cast as Masters' wife. Incidentally, when we first meet Stanton and Masters, they appear to be old friends, of a "Star Trek" Kirk and McCoy variety. You wonder how Masters got into Scotland Yard's employ in the first place and how else he may be abusing his position. While we see the anguish of betrayal in du Maurier's performance, the film otherwise doesn't go there.

    The tool of Masters' secret trade is a drug that once injected, causes a person to appear dead but can be revived later with a second drug. In this way The Scotland Yard Mystery heralds the many "mad doctor" films that would appear in later years, not least of which "The Black Sleep". Other horror touches include disappearing bodies, graveyard scenes, and the occasional secret door.

    For too many scenes that should be exciting but are just talky and stagy, I can't give the film much more than a 5. But if you like this sort of thing, it's certainly worth a watch. Network's region 2 DVD continues their trademark excellent picture and sound, particularly for a film of this vintage. Right-O!
  • comment
    • Author: Breder
    This film was called THE Scotland YARD MYSTERY in Britain and THE LIVING DEAD in America. IMDb is incorrect in saying of the film that 'A mad scientist devises a formula that puts people into a zombie-like trance to do his bidding'. It is not a mad scientist who misbehaves, it is a criminal medical doctor named Dr. Masters, played with an insidious, brazen and unctuous arrogance by George Curzon. Nor does he put people into a zombie-like trance, and nor is the film anything whatever to do with hypnosis or trances. Curzon is a medical adviser to Scotland Yard. Unknown to his law enforcement friends, he runs a secret racket whereby he injects certain people with a serum he has devised which puts them into a state of catalepsy, where they appear to be dead. He then can revive them with a counter-serum later. He uses this technique to fake people's deaths and claim on their life insurance. The star of the film is Gerald du Maurier, who plays Commissioner Stanton of the Yard. Du Maurier was the son of George du Maurier, who wrote the famous novel TRILBY and introduced the world to his sinister character Svengali. (That novel has been filmed many times under various titles.) Gerald was also the father of Daphne du Maurier, who wrote REBECCA and many other famous novels, which have been made into many films over the years and are too well known to require mentioning. Gerald was a famous stage actor who only made nine feature films and one short, few of which I believe survive. This film was released in 1934, the year he died, aged only 61. (Daphne was 27 at that time.) It is good to see Gerald at work, as he was a masterful screen presence, of which so little evidence exists today. I would hate to think of him becoming forgotten. This film is creaky because of its age, but it is a good 'un.
  • comment
    • Author: Jediathain
    Copyright 6 April 1934 by First Division Exchanges, Inc. Alliance Films. U.S. release through First Division. New York opening at the Globe: 15 March 1936. U.K. release through Wardour. London trade showing: January 1934. 76 minutes. Alternative U.S. title of a version cut to 63 minutes: The Living Dead.

    SYNOPSIS: A crooked doctor collects life insurance by injecting accomplices with a life-suspending serum.

    COMMENT: Thomas Bentley directed other movies besides his famous Dickens adaptations. If The Scotland Yard Mystery is a fair sample of his work, I don't think we have to worry that here is an unsung master of the cinema. As usual, the contemporary New York Times review is spot on. This movie is so awful that our Hollywood Classics audience could stand no more than the first half-hour and begged our projectionist to take it off.

    As it happens, the title is a misnomer. There's no mystery. We're told about the crooked doctor and his scheme right from the outset. The only mystery is why old Gerald du Maurier takes 76 minutes to nail his man. A child could see that sneaky-faced George Curzon is the villain. Maybe du Maurier is too much the gentleman to judge a book by its cover, but who wants to see a movie about a gentlemanly Scotland Yard man - especially not the sort of audience likely to be attracted by a title like The Living Dead?

    The rest of the players are as dull as the script, with Leslie Perrins making an especially wet hero. As for Bentley, he deserves some sort of a medal. Whatever small promises of drama and excitement in the hokey script, Bentley does his level best to suppress. It's hard to open a coffin without instilling some measure of suspense, but Bentley finds a way. Difficult to stage a homicide yet bore the audience silly - and insulting their intelligence as well - but good old Bentley is equal to the task. The players help too, with some assist from the cameraman and the set designer. It's a super-boring picture all right, but maybe that was the intention all along.
  • Cast overview:
    Gerald du Maurier Gerald du Maurier - Commissioner Stanton
    George Curzon George Curzon - Dr. Charles Masters
    Grete Natzler Grete Natzler - Irene Masters
    Belle Chrystall Belle Chrystall - Mary Stanton
    Leslie Perrins Leslie Perrins - John Freeman
    Frederick Peisley Frederick Peisley - Kenneth Bailey
    Wally Patch Wally Patch - Detective Sergeant George
    Henry Victor Henry Victor - Floyd
    Herbert Cameron Herbert Cameron - Paxton
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