Boris Karloff plays a ruthless cabman who supplies cadavers for a cold hearted doctor and his promising protégé in this well-produced thriller that, unfortunately, lacks any real edge.
Karloff is great in the titular role, a dark, amoral man whose greatest pleasure is blackmailing a respected surgeon. His performance proves the film’s strongest asset.
The rest of the cast is serviceable. Henry Daniell and Russell Wade work well as a heartless doctor and promising student, respectively but second-billed Bela Lugosi is window-dressing in a throw-away role that would be his final on-screen pairing with Karloff.
Director Robert Wise and producer Val Lewton deliver ample atmosphere but the lush production can’t overcome a talky script that drags whenever Karloff’s off-screen for too long. Further, there’s a whole subplot with a paralyzed little girl that fails (the girl is downright annoying from the get-go), and a hinted-at romance that also seems misplaced.
Given the characters and subject-matter this film should have been much, much, darker.
Given the talent involved, this should have been much, much, better.