Saturday, October 2, 2021

#2,625. Supernatural (1933)


A year after their independent hit White Zombie, brothers Victor and Edward Halperin once again returned to the horror genre with Supernatural, a pre-code quickie (it runs a little more than an hour) teeming with seedy characters and malevolent spirits.

As the film opens, murderer Ruth Rogen (Vivienne Osborne) is on Death Row, awaiting execution for strangling three of her lovers. Fearing her “personality” may return and inhabit another body, Dr. Carl Houston (H.B. Warner) convinces Rogen to sign her remains over to him so he can conduct an experiment that, if successful, will keep her spirit at bay.

Meanwhile, in another part of town, heiress Roma Courtney (Carole Lombard) is mourning the sudden death of her twin brother John. Sensing an opportunity to make some cash, Paul Bavian (Alan Dinehart), a phony medium, contacts Roma and says her dead brother has reached out to him with an important message.

How these two stories interact is but one of the intriguing elements to be found in Supernatural, a movie with as many villains as heroes (only Roma, Dr. Houston, and Roma’s boyfriend Grant, played by Randolph Scott, come across as sympathetic). As portrayed by Osborne, Ruth Rogen is a maniacal, unrepentant killer who shows no remorse for her actions, while Paul Bavian is a crook and, as we discover in one very chilling scene, capable of violence himself.

With its great use of shadows and a few genuine ghostly thrills, Supernatural is an early horror film that deserves a much bigger audience.
Rating: 9 out of 10

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