Carole Lombard left an indelible imprint on Hollywood and is primarily remembered for her screwball comedy roles in which she enthralled audiences worldwide with her zany, eccentric persona that she exhibited on screen, but while she was accustomed to her comedic parts, Lombard also excelled in other genres as well.
Sadly Carole Lombard didn’t get the opportunity to explore Film Noir, that magical genre in film that took place during the 40’s and 50’s. The only time Lombard came close to this aspect in film was when she appeared in 1933’s Supernatural, her only try at the horror medium.
After the success of White Zombie, the Halperin brothers wanted to do a follow up of the film using a considerable budget and a major studio, but still featuring many of the same cast members. Months later the project of Supernatural came to the fore, and they seen this as the perfect opportunity to duplicate the positive results of the previous production. However on it’s release, critics favored the original stating that it made more sense than the latter.
Supernatural was directed and produced by the Halperin Brothers, who previously worked together in White Zombie, and stars Carole Lombard alongside Randolph Scott.
The films plot is simple and revolves around the story of Roma Courtney ( Carole Lombard ) who has recently lost her brother and gets involved with fake spiritualist Paul Bavian ( Alan Dinehart ) who claims to have a message from her deceased brother and holds a staged seance, where Roma becomes possessed by the evil spirit of the executed murderous Ruth Rogen ( Vivienne Osborne ) who comes back to life in Roma’s body to plan revenge on Bavian.
Despite the array of negative reviews that the film received, Supernatural is a commendable film that spotlights Carole Lombard disseminating her acting prowess in a totally different role than what she was used to. Legions of audiences tend to dismiss Supernatural, stating that it’s not a part they want to see Carole Lombard in, which is a shame because the picture displays Carole’s versatility and proves that she was adept in playing a range of diverse roles.
I first seen this film years ago when I inhabited an ardent devotion for Carole Lombard, and after my first viewing, I was impressed; not just in Carole, but the actual production itself. This is a movie that showcases a myriad of different elements from the horror genre. While it is stapled as a Pre-Code horror, Supernatural explores many different spooky components such as thriller and mystery, and it’s all packed into a duration of 65 minutes.
From the moment it starts, the film builds an effectively unsettling atmosphere. First we see sparks of lightning splashed on the opening credits while at the same time being abounded by a haunting musical score. As the film rolls on, the chills increase. Of course it’s not scary, but it’s able to create that haunting ambiance without relying on the usual mood enhancers.
One of the most redeeming features of the film is the uniqueness that went into shooting it. This is not your average horror movie that takes place in the common chill binding areas; it’s a film that focuses on spirit possession and afterlife, which was quite unusual for the time.
Supernatural is a laudable film that contains an intelligent script and brisk dialogue. Not to mention Carole Lombard, the Queen of Screwball Comedy presenting her inimitable talents in the horror genre.
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since.
Throughout the film, “Rogen” is pronounced like Rowjin with the accent on the first syllable.
Roma: “[Admiring Ruth Rogen’s portrait] Isn’t she beautiful?”
Paul: “Yes, but repulsive… like a female spider that kills her mate when she’s through with it. She would have killed me if I hadn’t gotten rid of her first.”
Dr. Carl Houston: “Well, it may sound crazy, but that there’s the danger of contagion. No, dear, not from the body – that’s harmless – but there’s… there’s something else.”
Carole Lombard: Born Jane Alice Peters on October 6th, 1908 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Died: January 16th, 1942 on Mount Potosi, Nevada. Age 33. Cause of death: Airplane crash.
Randolph Scott: Born George Randolph Scott on January 23rd, 1898 in Orange County, Virginia. Died: March 2nd, 1987 in Beverly Hills, California. Aged 89.