Director Edward Dmytryk is best known for his film noir movies, winning Oscars for directing Crossfire and The Caine Mutiny and being named as one of the Hollywood Ten. This group of blacklisted film industry professionals refused to testify to the McCarthy-led House Un-American Activities Committee and as a result served time in prison for contempt of Congress. In 1951, however, Dmytryk testified to the HUAC and named Arnold Manoff, Frank Tuttle, Herbert Biberman, Jack Berry, Bernard Verhous, Jules Dassin, Michael Gordon and 15 others. He claimed that the Alger Hiss case, which found Communist spies in the U.S. and Canada, and the invasion of South Korea changed his mind. That said, he also probably wanted to fix his own career.

The screenplay was by Robert Hardy Andrews and Milton Gunzburg, the inventor of the Natural Vision stereoscopic 3-D system, from a story by William Sloane, who also wrote To Walk the Night.

Boris Karloff plays Dr. Julian Blair, a brain wave researcher, who loses his wife Helen (Shirley Warde) when she dies in a car crash. He becomes obsessed with speaking to her in the world beyond death and is helped by his buitler Karl (Ralph Penney) and a Spiritualist medium named Mrs. Walters (Anne Revere), whose influence over the once logical man worries his research assistant Richard (Richard Fiske) and daughter Anne (Amanda Duff).

I enjoy how in these Columbia films Karloff is the villain yet there are reasons why he has gone wrong. It’s an intriguing way of approaching an antagonist and Karloff makes each of them their own unique version of an archetype.

Mill Creek’s Thrillers from the Vault set also includes The Black Room, The Man They Could Not Hang, Before I HangThe Boogie Man Will Get You, The Man With Nine Lives, The Return of the Vampire and Five Each movie has a commentary track — The Devil Commands has Tom Weaver — and there’s also a documentary, Madness and Mayhem: Horror in the 30s and 40s. You can get it from Deep Discount.

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