“If you can do what you’re trying to do, you’ll own the world.”
Dr. Julian Blair (Boris Karloff) is a well respected scientist in his field. He is currently working on tests of the human brain. He believes they give off impulses that can be recorded. He also believes each brain has its own brain waive and that it is as unique as a fingerprint. His wife has been one of his test subjects. His wife Helen (Shirley Warde) is tragically killed in an auto accident.
The grief-stricken doctor goes to his laboratory to be alone with his grief. He absentmindedly turns on his brain scanning machine. The machine records the brain waves of his dead wife. He becomes obsessed with the idea that his wife is not really dead but trying to make contact with him. Despite warnings from his daughter Anne (Amanda Duff) and his research assistant Richard (Richard Fiske) he is determined to try to contact his wife. Even his colleagues believe that he is delving into forbidden areas of knowledge. He is trying to prove life after death. He believes that the human brain is the strongest receiving and sending mechanism on Earth.
His mentally-challenged servant Karl (Ralph Penney) tells him about Mrs. Walters (Anne Revere). She is a phony medium and at first Dr. Blair is suspicious and disbelieving of her powers. Eventually she manages to be able to exert a hold over Dr. Blair. He’s in it to try to talk to his wife. Mrs. Walters is in it for the money. He moves to an isolated mansion in New England and sets up a laboratory to test his theory.
After Blair moves to the mansion weird things start happening in the area. Bodies have been missing from the grave yard. People start talking, whispering. When his nosey housekeeper accidentally dies the sheriff shows up to investigate. And he’s suspicious of everything and everyone.
“The Devil Commands” was released in 1941 and was directed by Edward Dmytryk. This was another Columbia quickie and another “mad scientist” role for Karloff. As with most of them Karloff is a mad scientist that means well. Again we have a low budget “B” movie. It’s not a great movie. But it is good. It has moments that are actually creepy. The best thing about the movie is of course Karloff himself. His performance is good. Second best thing are some dead people in metal Cybermen looking outfits sitting around like they’re in a séance. Anne Revere’s performance was also quite eerie. This is one of those Karloff hidden gems. Not very well know but a must have for any Boris Karloff fan.
The one thing I wasn’t crazy about was the voice over. It was a monotone drone and I’m not sure it was really needed. Director Edward Dmytryk was one of the Hollywood 10. They were a group of filmmakers that, during the McCarthy era were suspected of communist sympathies and were blacklist for refusing to testify before the HUAC (House Un-American Activities Committee). In 1951, however, he finally did testify to the HUAC. Anne Revere (yes, she is related to Paul Revere) was also blacklisted in 1951.