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  • I remember this movie from seeing it on a kids' matinée at Peoples, a neighborhood theater in Dayton, Ohio, in 1933 or '34, when I was 9 years old. It was so scary that the memory has stuck with me for some 71 years.

    I could not summarize the plot in any great detail; nor would I want to, since it would be a forbidden spoiler in case the film should ever turn up on the cable or elsewhere.

    The story is set in a small European village -- in Transylvania, or some such place. It seems that it was always raining, with lightning and thunder, and people coming in wet and cold, and that most of the action took place at night -- a real film noir!

    Mr. and Mrs. White somehow acquired a mummified hand or paw of a small monkey, perhaps from a stranger who came in from the cold. The paw was said to have magical or supernatural powers, endowing the owners with the privilege of making THREE wishes. (It's always three, isn't it?)

    After a little discussion, Mrs. White convinced her husband to wish for a great deal of money, since the Whites were of modest means. White nervously held the paw in his hand and spoke the wish for money. At that instant, naturally, there was a blinding flash of lightning close by with an immediate crash of thunder! The dead hand of the monkey contracted into a fist momentarily, then returned to its curved-fingers relaxed position. I saw this clearly on the screen, but I'm not sure the characters in the movie saw it. In any case, nothing happened, and the Whites, and the others who were in the house laughed it off.

    In a day or so, however, the Whites received word that they were to receive a large sum of money from an insurance settlement. That was the good news. The trouble was the event that caused the big payoff ... . You didn't think they'd get money for free, did you?

    Well, as it turned out -- and as you'd no doubt guess -- the other two wishes were used up in a desperate attempt to recover from the disaster produced by the first. It was all tied up with ghostly illusions and thunder and lightning and rain and floods, and all kinds of troubles that scared the socks off the kids in the movie house. At least it did me.

    After all these years, I have a very warm feeling about this movie. I believe it was a first rate horror film, though definitely a low budget, "B-movie" filler to kill time before they showed the cowboy movie that we had really paid our dime to see. I feel that my recollections of it are vivid enough and accurate enough to justify my entering a favorable vote for it in the Data Base. I wish a print of it were available somewhere so the cable people could show it to us.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    It's kind of hard to believe that in 2017, we can still find a few of the missing stragglers from the early days of Hollywood. This one always baffled me as to how it could be lost as it was made by Cooper and Schoedsack at RKO the same year they released their landmark, KING KONG. This monkey was dwarfed and it is very much a minor B-film. Unfortunately, too, this version of THE MONKEY'S PAW that exists is dubbed in French and is only 49 minutes long - it lists as originally being 58 minutes. I'll explain a bit of that in the end (AND YES, EVEN FOR A LOST FILM I'M GIVING YOU A SPOILER ALERT).

    To not be able to hear C. Aubrey Smith's thick British droll is a big loss. He dominates the first half of the film and hearing him dubbed in French is tough to take. A similar feeling transpires when missing Bramwell Fletcher's excellent diction and Ivan Simpson's humble voice. The film is well-cast. Simpson is perfect for the somewhat pathetic John White. I had the fortune of an English language script to follow the dialogue. If you are familiar with the story, though, as I would think many horror fans are, then you can follow along for the most part without a script.

    There is no musical score in the film. If there was one then it went away with the English dialogue. The sound effects are very good - lots of wind and creaking of wood that you would expect from this kind of horror tale. I was under the impression there would be shots of the paw moving (special effects), but in this copy of the film there is only one shot of the paw moving and it is very unimpressive. The direction is adequate. Most of all, the film does have a feeling of being uneven. The story goes that the portion of the film that focuses on the White family was shot by Wesley Ruggles and came in at just over a half hour in length. To compensate for this and pad the film's length, the prologue with C. Aubrey Smith's character, Tom, and how he came to own the paw was shot afterwards by Ernest Schoedsack. I have to say, I enjoyed very much the prologue which takes place in India. It adds to the viewers' belief that the paw is tragically cursed as we see what happens to a poor Indian woman who dies horribly for her wishes. Tom, then makes a similar poor judgment in his use of the paw which leads him to come back to London and tell this tale to the Whites.

    The thing that will interest most people who are familiar with this film is the ending. The original version that was shown in the US in 1933 had a happy ending. It turned out that the whole story was a dream and Herbert White (John's son) and Rose get to live happily ever after. In this French version, the film ends with Mr. and Mrs. White having used their final wish to send their son back to his grave in peace. This, to readers of the short story, is the scene most people remember. It is not filmed well as the action takes place all in one long shot. As John wishes his son back to his grave, he is in the background of the shot while his wife frantically tries to open the door to let her dead son in. More cutting and closer shots would have benefited the film, but again, this clearly has the hallmarks of being a minor B picture.

    There is very little storytelling flair in terms of camera-work and editing, but there are ample shadows and dark atmosphere. The suspense doesn't build up as you would hope, though. I'm confident that seeing it and hearing the English actors' voices would help, because it is hard to read a script and look up at the TV screen for 49 minutes. So, the filmmakers' original work is still in many ways, lost. After all, it is a privilege to see THE MONKEY'S PAW as it just as easily could have gone unseen forever. There is a rumor of an English language version being discovered and if this is true, I think this film would be much more enjoyable. It begs the question, though as to what the best ending could be - a dream or reality?
  • W W Jacobs was a well known & popular English short story writer of the 1930s - usually sea tales with mystery and The Monkey's Paw is about his best known and oft heard if not a great favourite with amateur dramatic groups (probably because of the small cast). It is a nice little creepy tale with a universal moral - be careful what you wish for.... it could come with a price tag! I originally heard it as a radio play and couldn't wait to read the play itself. This early film version is unknown to me although a variety of adaptations have been produced on film - in one inferior updated case(I forget the title),the paw was replaced by another gimmick. IMDb lists 8 versions including a TV production and it was also included in radio's Suspense & Lights Out! series because it is favourably compared with Lucille Fletcher's radio masterpiece Sorry Wrong No! as a classic of the short story and radio adaptation when only one's imagination can do justice to the imagery & action. The original background was a typical working class English home of the '30s - the rest of the background is just referred to. For once the premise is too possible! 8 out of 10 for the story.