From FIVE STAR FINAL magazine - April 10, 1950
TORTURE AND LOTS OF BLOOD KEEP THE AUDIENCES IN A STATE OF NUMB TERROR.
Suffering San Franciscans, already jittery over war scares, had to endure further horrors late this summer when the San Francisco Repertory Company, with notable bad timing, imported a group of blood curdling dramas from the Grand Guignol Theater in Paris.
The purpose of any play put on at the Grand Guignol is to turn the spectator yellow with fright. The accent is definitely horror.
the playlets for the San Francisco Chronicle, John Hobart
“Thank heaven there was a trained nurse in attendance when I saw the show. Let me give you a faint idea of what you’re in for.
“In the first playlet, ‘One the Slab,’ which takes place in the Paris morgue, the police lock up a criminal in a room with a bottle of absinthe and the corpse of the girl he is supposed to have murdered.
“The second playlet, ‘A Dead Rat in Cabinet Six,’ is about an amorous Czarist general who is entertaining a cocotte in the private room of a Montmartre restaurant not suspecting that she plans to get him drunk and then strangle him with all the latest flourishes.
“But it is the final item, ‘The Strange Case of the Insane Virgin,’ that will give you the willies, if nothing else on the program does. This one, laid in a Paris loony bin, graphically describes how three madwomen, frantic with jealousy, fling themselves on a harmless and beautiful fellow-inmate, yank her tongue from its moorings and gouge out her eyes, which they later eat with a good deal of relish.
“These exercises in sadistic horror have, of course, nothing to do with art. They are unashamedly crude and vulgar and yet, if the plays were done with finesse (which they are not, intentionally), they would undoubtedly be unbearable.”
As it is, the playlets manage to achieve a nightmarish effect which leaves most playgoers in a state of trembling anxiety. Credit for this achievement, according to Luther Nichols of the Chronicle goes to director Robert T. Eley who “had to navigate the narrow course between what is frighteningly funny and what is disgusting. He had to lighten the playlets with humor without spoiling the horror effect.”
Technically he had to solve such problems as finding imitation blood that would coagulate in a few minutes and look red under the different kinds of eerie lights used in the show.
A local druggist solved the problem for Eley with a 2 percent solution of methyld cellulose. The playlets used a gallon a night.
The tongue that the three crazy women tear out of the young girl’s mouth is made of rubber. The eyes that they tear out and eat are made of candy and supplied by a local candy and nut store which oddly enough got many calls for the candy from bewitched spectators.