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After the old-books shop closes, portraits of the Strumpet, Death, and the Devil come to life and amuse themselves by reading stories--about themselves, of course, in various guises and eras. Four of the stories are literary horror stories (one by Poe, one by R. L. Stevenson), and the last one is a comedy involving a fake haunting. Written by
Any devotee of vintage horror films will want to see Conrad Veidt in an anthology of fantastic tales, but will be disappointed if he expects another "Waxworks" or "Destiny." This looks as if it had been tossed together rather casually, as an actors' lark, and the actors, especially Veidt, mug exuberantly. The five tales, sketchily told, are "The Black Cat," "The Suicide Club," stories of hauntings real and fake, and the old anecdote about the man whose wife disappears from an inn where everyone swears she was never there. These are read by three figures who have stepped out of paintings in an antiquarian bookshop and driven off the (exceedingly odd) owner. The three appear in all the stories, usually with the two men as rivals for the woman. The tone of the framing story and one of the tales from the books is comic, and that of the others deliberately exaggerated. The prevailing weirdness tends to neutralize the scary moments, and so does the Wagnerian music with which the version distributed by LS Video has been unwisely scored. This version doesn't look bad compared to some old films on video (one can clearly make out the actors' faces), but the condition of the print makes it impossible to tell how the film looked originally. It's no classic, but an entertaining view of a young Veidt running the gamut of extreme emoting.
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