Dark Eyes of London, also known as The Human Monster here in the States, is a 1939 horror film that stars Bela Lugosi. I hadn’t been disappointed by an early Horror film yet, but Dark Eyes of London changed that. I gave it an honest shot, but the film just didn’t gel well for me. Bela Lugosi is the villain, but lacks any motivation for his deeds beyond money and he’s… evil? The poster highlights the visage of Wilfred Walter as Jake, making you think that he’s the monster/villain of the film. Nope. While the character does get his hands more than a little dirty, he’s more of a victim than the monster. A reoccurring theme during this era, it seems.
Dark Eyes of London opens with police officers from Scotland Yard discovering a number of bodies in the Thames River. Under public pressure Scotland Yard assigns Det. Insp. Larry Holt (Hugh Williams), who is partnered up with Lieutenant Patrick O’Reilly (Edmon Ryan). Their investigation leads them to insurance agency run by Dr. Feodor Orloff (Bela Lugosi), who lends out loans in exchange for being made the beneficiary of the borrowers life insurance. Dr. Orloff also runs a home for the blind, under the false identity of Dearborn and uses one of the men under his care, Jake (Wilfred Walter) to commit murders and dispose of the bodies. One of the murdered men ‘s daughter Diane (Greta Gynt), befriends Det. Holt and Dr. Orloff, with Dr. Orloff getting her a job at the institute for the blind. While doing some book-keeping Diane learns what Dr. Orloff is up to and informs Det. Holt, but not before Orloff sends Jake after her to silence her. Fortunately Holt and the police arrive in time to save her, but Jake still escapes. A man hunt ensues for Dr. Orloff, but remains at large due to him, assuming the role of Dearborn full-time. Eventually Diane uncovers the truth about Dearborn and is once again set upon by Jake…
It doesn’t feel like there’s much to this film and that’s probably because there ain’t. But it does have a good deal of charm and for me that can make up for quite a bit. I never found the Dark Eyes of London all the frightening or even unnerving for that matter. But at one time it was, which makes films like this fascinating.
I would never go as far as to say that the acting is top-notch. It ain’t. It is, however passable, with a couple of the characters coming off very fun and like-able. But the characters suffer from being somewhat two-dimensional. But a couple of people do shine a bit more than the rest, most notably being Edmon Ryan. He came off as light and like-able, something that felt a little out-of-place. This being a horror movie.
Final thoughts, my personal favorite scene is when the police argue against violent interrogation. Something that felt odd to me, until I realized this is a British horror film. Bela Lugosi does… ok. Honestly not very impressed, but it was still nice seeing a master at his craft. Dark Eyes of London isn’t my brand of horror, the pace and tone of the film just didn’t work for me and I often found myself checking the time. So I would only suggest this film to hardcore Lugosi fans, but not many others. 5/10