Monday, October 15, 2018

Juggernaut (1936)

Juggernaut, eh? With a title like that I'm imagining Karloff the Uncanny either creating or playing some kind of gargantuan mutant or robotic behemoth to menace a city into giving him what he wants!... However, after the Regis Toomey crime caper Graft and the revelation that its title is simply referring to government corruption rather than sinister plastic surgery, I must say I'm not necessarily expecting a large payoff. Still, one can hope...

Doctor Sartorious is working on special experiments for the medical community in Morocco when his funding is cut. With not long to live, Sartorious is desperate to acquire the funds, and while running a practice in Cote d'Azur, France, he's approached by the venomous Lady Clifford, who's intent on getting her much older husband's fortune and run away with her young lover. She hires Sartorious to give Lord Clifford a deadly injection, and in return he'll receive the funds he needs to complete his research. The murder is pulled off successfully, but Sartorious' nurse Eve Rowe begins to suspect the truth, and has to stop these plotters from murdering the final roadblock to Lord Clifford's wealth-His son Roger...

Unlike in previous outings, Boris Karloff is playing a more unscrupulous mad scientist here. It was actually a bit hard getting used to seeing him as a doctor I wasn't meant to root for. As for his status as a scientist, he's not particularly mad as whatever it is he's so determined to study doesn't play any role in the plot, so we don't get any mutants or monsters terrorising the Cote d'Azur. Despite this clear and obvious setback (who doesn't wanna see that??)  he's a decently characterised villain, and we believe his desperation. His final act was a well-executed one on the part of the writers too.

Nurse Eve is the heroine of the piece, and she's quite intelligent! She quickly realises Dr. Sartorious' attitude isn't normal, and suspects him of some kind of foul play, cleverly hiding the missing syringe and sending it away for analysis. I'm afraid I'll have to dock some points though for her neglecting to mention to the chemist 'If you happen to ring me back and reach a certain Dr. Sartorious, do not trust him! And certainly don't give everything away!'. She makes up for it with her quick escape in the climax, and her efforts in taking the bad doctor down, all without any help.

The ending is incredibly abrupt. Lady Clifford doesn't really get any onscreen punishment, which isn't very satisfying, and there's not any kind of denouement with Eve and Roger bar a single hug before The End. Their friendship/chemistry wasn't the stuff of legends, but the two were nice enough together that I did want to see some kind of ending, but I guess the filmmakers were concerned that 61 minutes was long enough already and decided to cut filming then and there.

Despite being a serious film, I have to wonder if some elements of Juggernaut were meant to be comedic, like the young trophy wife yelling at her aging husband "I've given you the best years of my life!".

Karloff gives his all as usual, even if his character becomes a bit more one-dimensional in the last act. Joan Wyndham is likewise quite good as Eve, especially in the climax. Mona Goya is hilariously bad as Lady Clifford, over-emoting to a ridiculous degree. She's actually French though, so if nothing else her accent is at least legit. The rest of the performances range from decent to poor.

Juggernaut has an interesting plot on paper, and an intriguing title at first glance (mainly in how much of a non-sequitur it seems to be (and ultimately is), it makes you wonder how it'll tie into the proceedings), but I can see why it isn't an oft discussed entry in Karloff's filmography. Not bad by any means, but it's just a mediocre quickie...

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