Director: Walter Summers
Writers: John Argyle, Patrick Kirwan, Walter Summers and Jan Van Lusil
Starring: Béla Lugosi, Hugh Williams, Greta Gynt, Edmon Ryan, Wilfred Walter and Alexander Field
Cult classic The Dark Eyes of London is receiving a remastered release from Network, just in time for Halloween. The film couldn’t look better in high definition and the new release comes with a load of great extras. It’s a real treat for fans of old horror films and Béla Lugosi.
Based on the novel of the same name by Edgar Wallace, The Dark Eyes of London tells the story of Dr. Feodor Orloff (Béla Lugosi, Dracula), an insurance salesman. A few of his clients die in suspicious drownings in the themes and the police start to suspect Orloff’s involvement.
While now, over eighty years after its original release in 1939, the film seems really tame, at the time it was shocking and terrifying. The Dark Eyes of London was the first British film to be rated ‘H’ for being ‘Horrific for Public Exhibition’. It’s a dark tale full of death and there’s a few twists that are still surprising today.
Béla Lugosi was one of the finest horror actors of his time. His legacy of strong, intense, and overpowering villains is undeniable, and his Dracula is the one that most people think of when you mention the Count’s name. Lugosi is on full force in The Dark Eyes of London. Even if you have no familiarity with him or his roles, you can tell by the first scene he’s in that there’s more than meets the eye. There’s something sinister hidden underneath his kind smile.
The rest of the cast are also great, bringing life to rich characters. This is the era of Britain where the police officer who is chastised for not being good at his job, goes into his office and orders a pot of tea over the phone in response. There are some dated stereotypes about people with physical disabilities, that wouldn’t go down very well (Ignoring all the Bond villains with scars on their faces in Daniel Craig’s era). It’s a little bit jarring from a modern perspective.
What is stunning, is the background scenes. Boats on the Thames, streets, and carriages. There is always something fascinating about watching really old cinema, it’s like a time machine back to an earlier time. The technology they use to project photo on the wall, the transport and clothing. It’s a joy to watch it from a contemporary source.
The Dark Eyes of London may not be the first film that Lugosi fans think of, but it is a worthy part of his filmography. The new Network release is essential for horror fans. The film couldn’t look better and it’s still more than enjoyable today.
The Dark Eyes of London is released on Blu-ray and DVD 11 October from Network