Sci-Fi Rewind:Murder by Television (1935)
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|The Unreal Film Festival is owned and managed by Cellardoor Cinema. Copyright 2017
Each new year is filled with the promise of progress, and that progress is often accompanied
by fear, particularly if you watch science fiction film and television. There’s always the lingering
threat that our technological advancement will ultimately destroy us. In 1935, this fear was just as
present and a film released that year engaged with an innovative looming technology, television.
Murder by Television is largely a forgettable film, but it stands now as a snapshot of a time when
television was novel.
For fans of horror and vintage movies, this film features the iconic actor Bela Lugosi, who had
just starred in Dracula a few years prior. For retro technology buffs, there’s some serious eye-
candy in this film in the form of shots of the device used to televise a state-of-the-art program. For
a contemporary audience sensitive to the pitfalls of vintage film, there is an unfortunate amount of
racism surrounding the servants portrayed in Murder by Television.
The basic plot of the film is not astounding. A television innovator schedules a demonstration
of broadcasting during which he suddenly drops dead. The film then becomes a murder mystery.
Bela Lugosi (playing a character whose name is not worth remarking) looks particularly furtive and
shifty right up until he is also murdered. Then, there’s another plot twist moving forward this
incredibly convoluted story.
The only interesting feature of the final half of the film is the revelation of the science fiction
manner in which the murder is committed; the television becomes a death ray. There’s a profound
message in an inventor being murdered by his own creation, but this film does not do that message
Watch Murder by Televison to the extent that you can stand it.
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Directed by: Clifford Sanforth
Starring: Bela Lugosi, June Collyer, Huntley Gordon, George Meeker, Charles Hill Mailes