I often watch films shot in my home town, in order to see what it looked like then and what it looks like now. I love seeing the sites of Big Ben, St Pauls or Tower Bridge. The streets filled with hustle and bustle. The people slightly grubby but also heartfelt and helpful. A world away from London today and maybe exactly the same. THE DARK EYES OF LONDON was shot at a time when London was on the brink of war. The Nazi threat was all invasive and people crept along, hopeful of a peace that was doomed to fail. This fear as such, plays deep into the films of the time. Making it a strange and strained place that benefits for instance, this films unsettling menace. The London of sprawling docks, dirt and Dickensian squalor are still there. So are the squats and doss houses of the poor and disenfranchised. So too is screen icon Bela Lugosi and a fiendish plan.

You see, he is at the heart of a series of mysterious drownings in the Thames. All those who have died, had life insurance with him and all seem to have benefactors that are long since disappeared. The police are bemused. Could this obvious plot, lead them to a crime mastermind? Scotland Yard hunt down the network that allow for these sinister murderers! This is the simplified version of a very simple story. Adapted from a novel by Edgar Wallace, the nightmarish evil of a scientist and his blind minions, might today trigger some and bore others but it has a bounding energy to it. Lugosi was at the end of his fame period, soon to work with lesser beings and then to Ed Wood and his B cults. But here he steals the show as a Hollywood star should. A demented scientist on a killing spree is a well trodden path, even then. However he gives us gusto. Mix the diffusion of Expressionism and European brutality (for the period). Then add to it the horrific looking faces and you have a disturbing watch. It is not surprising that this was the first British film to receive the H censor rating for being “Horrific for Public Exhibition”. Its unquiet menace (which is mostly thanks to Lugosi), its difficult visions and in human characters makes it an unpleasant watch (in a good way).


Start with the best and work down the rest. Kim Newman and Stephen Jones produce a varied commentary that seems sometimes more interested in Lugosi and Universal but is well rounded on the core London and the horror of Wallace to make it informative. Their documentary on Lugosi in the UK is excellent, mainly because it takes place in a pub and with a pint in clear view.

[] Brand-new audio commentary with Kim Newman and Stephen Jones
[] Bela Lugosi in Britain: Kim Newman and Stephen Jones discuss Lugosi’s work in the UK at the Edgar Wallace pub in London
[] US titles
[] US trailer
[] Image gallery
[] Limited edition booklet written by Adrian Smith
[] Limited edition O-card (Blu-ray exclusive)
[] Limited edition poster postcards (Blu-ray exclusive)


Network presents The Dark Eyes of London on Blu-ray and DVD 11 October

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