Produced as a Jewel Production in 1927 and widely released in 1930. Universal devised a 3-tiered brand system to market its films to independent theaters (it did not own its own chain, unlike most of the other major studios): Red Feather (low budget), Bluebird (mainstream) and Jewel (prestige pictures capable of commanding higher roadshow ticket prices). This band system ended in 1929 but as this film was produced earlier, it was one of the final releases branded as a Jewel. See more »
Often termed a horror film (due to it's background of stage magic) this is really a tale of thwarted love. Conrad Veidt excels as the kindly Erik the Great who finds his soon to be bride has fallen in love with one of his assistants. The discovery scene is a superb piece of acting from Veidt, as he shifts from shock to heartbreak, struggling to be magnanimous, and then gradually to cold calculation with the subtlest changes of expression.
These moments and a dynamic trial scene elevate what is otherwise an okay backstage melodrama into a truly compelling tale of jealousy and redemption. Palo Fejos, director of the wonderful "Lonesome", injects some stylish visuals.
The version I've seen is a truncated and mute print of 48 minutes, so I may have missed some of the film's finer points.
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