When Roger Balfour is found shot dead in his London home, his death is declared a suicide by Inspector Burke of Scotland Yard, even though the executor of Balfour's estate, Sir James Hamlin, insists his friend never would have taken his own life. Five years later, the abandoned Balfour house comes to life again with the arrival of two sinister-looking tenants: a fiendish-looking man with pointed teeth, bulging eyes and a tall beaver hat, and a pale young woman in a long gown. The presence of the strangers prompts Sir James, who lives next door, to call in Inspector Burke again. Also living in the Hamlin household are the other people who were also present in Balfour's house the night he died: Sir James' nephew, Arthur Hibbs; the late Balfour's now-grown daughter, Lucille; and Williams, the butler. Burke expresses skepticism about Sir James' suspicions that the new neighbors might have been involved in Balfour's death, until strange things start happening: Balfour's body disappears ... Written by
Eugene Kim <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Tantalizing reconstruction with elegant stills gives a hint of how good the film may have been...
Personally, I'm grateful that the elegant B&W production stills survived in order that we can see what Tod Browning's production might have looked like had it not been destroyed by fire.
It also helps if you've seen Browning's remake of this same story called THE MARK OF THE VAMPIRE ('35) with its surprise ending being made much clearer than it is in this reconstruction where there is only one caption that even hints at what was going on with the theatrics.
I was captivated by the dark-haired beauty of MARCELINE DAY and appalled at the silent histrionics of CONRAD NAGEL who wore the same look of horror and disbelief in every shot. The ending was blunted without giving a full explanation for any of the doings, which is why seeing the '35 version is advisable for anyone who is still confused.
The '35 version had BELA LUGOSI, LIONEL ATWILL and LIONEL BARRYMORE in key roles and was extremely well worth viewing. This silent version, reconstructed with stills, appeared to be beautifully photographed with appropriately cobweb-covered interiors and intense B&W lighting for atmospheric effects.
Chaney's make-up appeared to be quite startling--for me it was even more so than his "Phantom" disguise--and his Inspector Burke seemed a very forceful creation judging from the intense finger waving stills.
Well done reconstruction except for the weak ending which missed making its point. The background score was fine.
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