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The Devil Commands

4.1 out of 5 stars 21 customer reviews

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(Aug 26, 2003)
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Editorial Reviews

Screen horror legend Boris Karloff (Frankenstein, The Mummy) stars in this chilling, suspenseful tale of communication from beyond the grave. A respected scientist (Karloff) experimenting with brain wave impulses loses his beloved wife in an auto accident. Overwhelmed by grief, he attempts to record his deceased wife's brain patterns. When his experiment registers her brain activity, he frantically escalates his research. Enlisting the aide of a scheming clairvoyant, he resorts to desperate measures, even grave robbing and using the corpses as human radio tubes, to facilitate contact with hiswife. As the bodies pile up and townsfolk close in, will the mad doctor finally break through to the other side? THE DEVIL COMMANDS, from acclaimed director Edward Dmytryk (The Caine Mutiny, The End ofthe Affair) is a supernatural shocker that expertly blends sci-fi and horror.

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Amanda Duff, Boris Karloff, Kenneth MacDonald, Richard Fiske
  • Directors: Edward Dmytryk
  • Producers: Wallace MacDonald
  • Format: Black & White, Closed-captioned, Full Screen, Subtitled, NTSC
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 1.0)
  • Subtitles: English, French
  • Region: Region 1 encoding (US and Canada only)
    Some Region 1 DVDs may contain Regional Coding Enhancement (RCE). Some, but not all, of our international customers have had problems playing these enhanced discs on what are called "region-free" DVD players. For more information on RCE, click .
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Not Rated
  • Studio: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: August 26, 2003
  • Run Time: 64 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0000A2ZU4
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,820 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "The Devil Commands" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Parker Benchley VINE VOICE on January 5, 2005
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Boris Karloff made a series of pictures for Columbia during the late 30s and early 40s, usually playing mad scientists. This is his maddest scientist of the lot. Based (very) loosely on "The Edge of Running Water," a popular story by William Sloane, the film concerns the attempts of Boris to communicate with his late, very beloved wife. To do so, he enlists the help of a medium and several stolen corpses, who are seated around a table in robotic diving helmets and subjected to huge amounts of electricity. The townspeople are growing suspicious of Boris and so he is visited by the sheriff. (Kenneth MacDonald, who later went on to star as a foil for the Three Stooges in several shorts.) The sheriff, in turn, calls Boris's long lost daughter (Amanda Duff) to come and fetch her father. But Boris decides she is perfect suited for the experiment, and so uses her to get in touch with the wife. Watch for the great scene when the maid, coaxed by the sheriff to do a little snooping, gets locked in Boris's laboratory with the seated corpses and the electricity on. Directed by Edward Dmytryk at a crisp 65 minutes.
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Format: DVD
Movie: ***1/2 DVD Quality: **1/2 Extras: **1/2

A fun little "B" horror film from 1941 with the redoubtable Boris Karloff playing the kind of "mad doctor" role he could pull off with effortless aplomb. What makes this one a notch above the average is that Karloff is up against an unusual foil --- a scheming female medium, formidably played by the superb character actress Anne Revere (just three years away from winning her Oscar for "National Velvet"). Watching an unhinged Karloff and a toughly villainous Revere sparring together on-screen is a real treat, and they're given excellent support by a supporting cast that includes Amanda Duff as Karloff's daughter and wide-eyed Dorothy Adams playing another of her patented domestic roles (she is perhaps best remembered as Gene Tierney's housekeeper in the classic "Laura"). The main plotline is fairly cliched, with Karloff as yet another bereaved husband trying to contact his deceased wife from beyond the grave, but there are some great set decorations and moody cinematography that liven up the proceedings. And at a mere 65 minutes of running time, director Edward Dmytryk (like Revere, an eventual victim of the Hollywood blacklist) keeps things humming along nicely.

Columbia's DVD transfer is wildly uneven. There are sections where the video quality is superb; sadly, there are also long stretches plagued by white lines running through the frame, and some frequent spotting. The sound is fairly good throughout. DVD extras consist of three trailers for more recent Columbia horrors; there are no features pertaining to "The Devil Commands" itself. Overall, the DVD will appeal primarily to genre fans in general, and Karloff devotees in particular. Others may not be so appreciative of the film's charms, but there are certainly worse ways to spend an hour and five minutes.
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Format: DVD
Ok so it's a lot of money to pay for a film made in 1941 with no extra's but if your a Karloff or Vintage Horror lover it's worth the money.
I thought the picture quality was good..not stunning, but as clear as watching a movie on tv.
As for the film - it's one of the most interesting Karloff made during the 30's and 40's.
But if Columbia want a big seller on their hands they'll release 'The Black Room' & 'The Man They Could Not Hang' on a double bill disc.
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Format: DVD
Perennial favorite Boris Karloff stars as a scientist who has created a helmet then when placed on the head of a subject can transfer their brainwaves onto a graph. Kind of like a lie detector graph. He discovers that women have stronger waves of brain energy then men. He demonstrates this to a room full of fellow scientists and friends, by using his wife an an example. Her brain waves are indeed stronger and much to the amazement of his skeptical friends the graph on the wall jumps up and down! Later after his wife dies in a car accident, Boris returns to his lab and angrily throws switches and discovers that his wife's energy has returned to the lab! He now joins up with a spiritualist and a bruteing Igor type to further his experiments and try and contact his beloved wife from beyond the grave. Holds up quite well today. The seance table surrounded by corpses, the swirling spirits appearing as a funnel of energy and King Karloff in all his maniacal glory. My only complaint is the short running time of only 65 min. The last 5 minutes look rushed but still the movie wraps up nicely. Now as to the is just o.k. Columbia started out great with their brilliant William Castle titles, but seem to care less and less about these more recent releases. The pre-print on Devil Commands could use digital cleaning up. And come on Columbia, not even the trailor!!??. In closing, Columbia/Tristar Look at the GHOUL released by M.G.M. and see what a great transfer should look like. Still over all recommended.
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Format: DVD
Karloff fans should probably be happy that this rarity, which never appeared on commercial VHS, has been made available by the original studio in the new format. As it is, this DVD is definitely worth having for the movie alone. But the price should reflect the content. On the outer packaging, we are told the film has been "remastered in high definition". This may be the truth, but in remastering the movie, numerous scratches and other imperfections were certainly not remedied. Fortunately, the best parts of the film (the first 20 or so minutes and the finale) do look rather fine, and there is plenty of clarity in the image along with that silvery quality that some associate with older films.
THE DEVIL COMMANDS is a low-budget production, but director Edward Dmytryk (MURDER, MY SWEET and others) knew how to establish a sinister atmosphere and sustain it for 64 minutes. This is sort of a 'haunted house meets mad scientist movie'. There are elements of science-fiction (very sketchy science) and horror (communication with the dead). The film is short and moves quickly, at less of an expense to plot development than one might think. In its own terms and within its genre, this film is quite plausible, and very enjoyable.
Karloff is extremely good at portraying a well-meaning scientist and loving husband who must gradually transform into an obsessed near-maniac. "Near-maniac" because he does not willfully harm anyone, but only commits "ethical" crimes like grave-robbing. When the doctor's wife is killed in a freak accident, he puts his new theory to work, trying to communicate with her spirit in the afterlife.
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