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A producer decides to reopen a theater, that had been closed five years previously when one of the actors was murdered during a performance, by staging a production of the same play with the remaining members of the original cast. Written by
Paul Leni (The Cat and the Canary, The Man Who Laughs) directs this Universal horror film, which has been forgotten over the years but if you've seen some of the studios bigger pictures then you've can tell what all this film has influenced. A popular show on Broadway, inside a creepy theatre, is closed down after the mysterious murder of one of the actors. Years later the police reassemble the original cast and bring them back to the theater to see if they can trap the murderer but it might be a ghost they're dealing with. This film mixes elements of The Phantom of the Opera with the old dark house themes of films like The Bat and delivers a terrific entertainment. This film has never been officially released so I had to view it via what appears to be a 16mm print and the quality was pretty bad throughout so if I get a chance to see a pristine print then I'll probably bump my review up. The technical eye of Leni, who died after this film, is untouched by nearly everyone as he's constantly trying new and different things with the camera. I love how he'll have a medium shot and then move the camera in to show some evidence before moving it back out to let the action role. The film runs just under 80-minutes and goes by very fast with some exciting action but also a great story to work with. The actors, including John Boles who would later appear in Frankenstein, all do nice work as well. There are a few twists and turns along the way that actually work well within the story. This film works on a technical level as well as the story level and that makes this a wonderful little gem that needs to be rediscovered. The only thing people know about this movie nowdays is that it was a huge influence on James Whale and this is easy to see. There's a woman here, used as comic relief, which is later a carbon copy in Una O'Connor. The Old Dark House also lifts some shots here but I won't say which ones since it'll ruin scenes in both movies. The score here was also later reused in Dracula and this film was shot on the same sets as The Phantom of the Opera so there's a lot of connections here.
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