Prominent physician injured in smash up. Dr. Stephen Ross’ car turns turtle on drive.
Dr. Andre Crespi (Erich von Stroheim) is the head honcho of the Taft Clinic. He is rude an overbearing. Nothing out of the ordinary for a chief surgeon. What is out of the ordinary is his vicious hatred for Dr. Stephen Ross (John Bohn). Ross use to be his assistant, however, Ross married Estelle (Harriet Russell). Estelle is the woman that Crespi was in love with.
When Ross is injured in an accident Estelle goes to Crespi to beg him to save her husband’s life. Ross has a blood clot near his brain and Crespi is the only surgeon that could possibly save him. Crespi agrees to perform the surgery. When Ross is in his room Dr. Thomas (Dwight Frye) has the doctor called. Ross’s pulse is not what it should be.
Crespi takes the opportunity to give Ross a drug that mimics death. Ross is put into a trance-like state yet he still retains all his faculties. Dr. Thomas becomes suspicious of Dr. Crespi when he asks him to fill out the death certificate only to find that Crespi had already filled one out before he went to see Dr. Ross and the certificate has the proper time of death on it.
While Ross is helpless, Crespi sneaks into the morgue and gleefully tortures him by telling him what is going to happen to him. He explains that he was in love with Estelle and he blames Ross for taking her away from him. He tells him that he is going to be buried alive.
The next day Dr. Thomas confronts Crespi telling him he knows that Crespi murdered Ross by poisoning him. Crespi ties up Dr. Thomas and stuffs him in the closet. He then attends the funeral of his colleague. “The Crime of Dr. Crespi” was released in 1935 and was directed by John H. Auer. The film is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Premature Burial”. Dr. Crespi was played by Erich von Stroheim. He is known for his portrayal of Max Von Mayerling from “Sunset Boulevard” 1950. Dwight Frye, who played Dr. Thomas, is of course well known mostly as Renfield from “Dracula” 1931 but who played several misfits, hunchbacks and crazy people in horror movies. “The Crime of Dr. Crespi” is the movie where he received, as second billing, the highest billing of his career.
No offense meant to Frye, (he’s one of my faves), or to Edgar Allan Poe, (he’s the bomb), but this is not a very good movie. There’s nothing left but to blame it all on the movie makers. The script is pretty bland. Not much happens until almost half way through the movie. There’s a lot of talking. You meet the characters and they chat about everyday things. It’s supposed to be the character development part of the movie but most of the characters are wooden and one sided.
When you do get to the good stuff is the only time that there is any real potential horror. Being buried alive is nothing to sneeze at. Neither is having the one who put you there viciously explaining in agonizing detail what is going to happen to you and you can’t do a thing about it. That is where Crespi went from bi-polar to evil and that’s when von Stroheim was at his best.
The only other good part was Frye. When Crespi let him out of the closet he looked like he had actually been tied up in a closet for hours. If you are a Dwight Frye fan, or even an Erich von Stroheim fan than yes, go for it. Otherwise, if you don’t mind the slow part you can look forward to the creepy part.