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The Unholy Night
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The Unholy Night More at IMDbPro »

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20 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

Night, the fog, insanity and murder; now THAT'S entertainment!

Author: reptilicus from Vancouver, Canada
24 August 2005

A skeleton dressed in tatters waves at us at the opening credits roll. This is going to be good.

London is in the 4th night of the worst fog anyone can remember. The movie has not been running 4 minutes before we witness a brutal assault, a rape and a murder. A mysterious attacker tries to garrote Lord Montague (Roland Young) as he makes his way home. Luckily the dapper gentleman is also late of His Majesty's Army and is able to fight off his would be murderer.

Lord Monty has friends at Scotland Yard and they advise him that several murders have occurred and all of the victims were in his old regiment from India. The Inspector persuades Monty to gather his fellow ex-officers in one place in the hopes of luring the killer into the open. Monty is no Bulldog Drummond but he is up for the challenge and agrees.

The old cronies gather and plan to turn the night into a reunion/party while they wait for the killer to show up. As the night progresses and the drinks flow talk of "the old days" gives way to darker memories and soon it is obvious that most of the group have grudges against each other for one reason or another. It begins to look more and more like the mad strangler just might be one of them!

Ah, but who could it be? The most obvious choice is The Colonel (John Miljan) who was disfigured by a grenade blast and got the "screaming meemees" (shell shock to you). Yes, but The Colonel has traumatic amnesia and is confined to a wheelchair . . . isn't he?

Director Lionel Barrymore is best remembered for his acting but he is a very competent director and he handles the cast of veteran performers as if they were old pals. Roland Young is quite good in this very serious role. He would go to the fantasy genre with THE MAN WHO COULD WORK MIRACLES (1937) before becoming indelibly identified with the role of TOPPER.

Also in the cast is Lionel Belmore who appeared opposite Lon Chaney in the 1922 version of OLIVER TWIST. John Miljan would go on to be the prosecuting attorney who yanks the wig off Mrs. O'Grady exposing Lon Chaney's criminal plot in THE UNHOLY THREE just a year after this. Japanese actor Kamiyama Sojin (who was usually billed by just his surname) was the first actor to play Charlie Chan in a movie (THE Chinese PARROT, 1926. Does anyone know where a print of this movie is?) The kindly doctor is played by Ernest Torrance, a man who in silent movies set the standards for brute villains in movies like TOL'ABLE David (1921) and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME (1923). When talkies arrived and audiences heard his cultured Scots accent his days as a brute were over and he began to play professors and "nice old grandfathers". (NOTE: A similar thing happened to actor Donald Crisp but hey, it prolonged their careers so who's complaining?)

The real surprise is finding Boris Karloff in a small but significant role as Abdul, a Hindu lawyer who has come to read the will of a brother officer who died in India. Abdul not only knows who the killer is but why he is striking! But will he live to reveal what he knows? Boris met Lionel Barrymore when the two of them worked on THE BELLS in 1926 and they formed a lasting friendship.

Admittedly at 93 minutes the movie is a bit too long and a scene of the old soldiers doing a drinking song goes on much longer than it should. Also, after such an elaborate build-up of tension the climax is something of a letdown. Still this early talkie succeeds on many levels and is well worth a look.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Early Talkie Thriller

Author: Ron Oliver ( from Forest Ranch, CA
15 November 2004

With death stalking the darkness, members of a doomed regiment spend THE UNHOLY NIGHT in an old mansion seeking a murderer.

Fine atmospherics and good performances propel this creaky creeper from the very early days of talking pictures. The opening sequence ably depicts the oppressive emotional weight of an extreme London fog. The remainder of the film becomes an Old Dark House picture, with the cast claustrophobically caught in the clutches of a clever killer.

Owlish Roland Young does very well as the gentle nobleman whose grand home becomes a house of horrors. Appreciated for his comedic abilities, Young shows he's equally adept at more serious drama. Ernest Torrence--a very enjoyable character actor of the era whose career was cut short by an early death--plays the friendly doctor trying to deal with the brutal deaths. Lovely Natalie Moorhead portrays Young's sister, a woman fascinated by the supernatural. Dorothy Sebastian appears as a beautiful & mysterious lady from the East with a strange story to tell.

Blustery Major Lionel Belmore, and John Miljan as a badly scarred Major, are two of the 'Doomed Regiment.' Polly Moran has a few good moments as a frightened maid. Exotic Sojin is most effective as a Chinese mystic.

Movie mavens will easily recognize an unbilled Boris Karloff appearing as a sinister Turkish lawyer.

Director Lionel Barrymore makes good use of the new sound technology with a few well placed screams and some hearty singing from the officers of the regiment.

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9 out of 11 people found the following review useful:

Creaky Fun

Author: telegonus from brighton, ma
28 October 2001

This very early talkie mystery-thriller was directed by Lionel Barrymore, and is quite well acted and written if one has a taste for old-fashioned melodrama and barnstorming ham. A fascinating period piece, which, if one likes the period, is priceless.

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4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Roland Young and Boris Karloff

Author: kevin olzak ( from Youngstown, Ohio
29 April 2014

1929's "The Unholy Night" was one of a handful of features directed by actor Lionel Barrymore, who seems far better at atmospherics than getting decent performances. A London fog is the setting for mayhem, as members of a regiment from the Gallipoli Campaign of World War 1 are targeted for death. The opening finds Scotland Yard working with Lord Montague (Roland Young) to use his home for a reunion that should bring the killer out into the open, and it works; unfortunately, the bodies pile up for over an hour before a solution turns up in a séance conducted by an Oriental mystic (Sojin). The working title, and British, of this early talkie was "The Green Ghost," which might have worked better for an MGM feature, particularly with the uncredited appearance of Boris Karloff as Abdoul Muhammad Bey (related to Ardath Bey?), the Turkish lawyer in love with hysterical Lady Efra Cavender (Dorothy Sebastian). Dorothy was a wonderful actress but she, like Boris, is so over the top that the character cannot be taken seriously, making for a lengthier 94 minutes. Barrymore and Karloff first worked together in 1926's "The Bells," and last did so in 1931's "The Yellow Ticket," but this was the only time Karloff was directed by him. Considering he has two very important scenes, it's a shame Boris was the lone cast member unbilled, but his foreign accent and slow delivery would undoubtedly be better played by Bela Lugosi, who had recently starred in MGM's "The Thirteenth Chair." Having made his talkie debut as a Soudanese servant in Fox's "Behind That Curtain," Karloff remains stuck in ethnic mode, while his broad, unnatural, overly theatrical performing style must be chalked up to bad direction. It was indeed fortunate that his starmaking triumph in "Frankenstein" resulted from his exquisite talent in mime, while the numerous different roles done in between helped him better adapt to sound film, and escape the usual ethnic villain roles he was often saddled with in silents.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

Boris Karloff was a Lawyer in this Classic Film!

Author: whpratt1 from United States
28 October 2003

Just recently taped this great film Classic and enjoyed going back in time to 1929 and enjoying a picture directed by Lionel Barrymore for MGM. This black & white film with foggy scenes of London and a group of British former officers drinking scotch and soda and singing old tunes while their fellow comrades died like flies, kept you wondering who the killer really was. There was mention of the "Green Ghost through out the picture and it seems this film was originally called "The Green Ghost". It was funny seeing painted words on the kitchen wall, "Waste NOT" WANT NOT" The big shocker was seeing Boris Karloff, "Bedlam" '46, appear as a lawyer and reading the last will of their fellow officers. Karloff was grateful that Lionel Barrymore gave him an uncredited role in this film, which boosted his recognition on the silver screen. Roland Young(Lord Montague) "Topper"'37 gave a very comical and dramatic performance and would be considered very slap stick in this generation. Dorothy Sebastian(Lady Efra Cavander) former Ziegfeld Gal put some so called action into the film with her very close-cut hair style. Most films in the late 1920's are very hard to find, this is a gem that was great viewing and took me way back in time. Enjoy this film, if you can find it !

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

"I never scream unless a fella gets gay with me."

Author: utgard14 from USA
28 April 2014

On a foggy night in London, five men are strangled. Four die but the fifth (Roland Young) escapes. Turns out the men all served together in the same regiment years before. Now Scotland Yard gathers the other men from the regiment together at Young's house to figure out the killer.

Nice old dark house mystery with a creepy pre-credits ghost and effective opening few minutes. This was directed by Lionel Barrymore. He only directed a handful of movies and nothing past 1931. Which is a shame because, if this is any indication, he had talent as a director. It does creak some, being an early talkie, but it's still worth checking out. Boris Karloff has an uncredited part as a Hindu lawyer named Abdul. I love Karloff but this is one of his worst performances. He's so over the top you just have to see it for yourself.

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1 out of 5 people found the following review useful:

Throughout the film, most of the actors took turns overacting--sort of like some sort of actors' game!

Author: planktonrules from Bradenton, Florida
18 January 2015

The film begins with five people being killed and one other (Young) almost being killed. The police soon find out that ALL were members of the same unit in Gallipoli during WWI--so obviously this is no coincidence. The police arrange for the surviving members to all meet at the home of the guy who was almost killed--then they can determine if any of them are behind this. However, soon one of these guests dies and a weirdo foreign lawyer (Karloff) comes in and announces that a disgraced member of the unit has most likely orchestrated the killing. While this guy didn't do the killings since he's supposedly dead, his bizarre will did. He's left a million bucks to the surviving member of the unit--and assumes they'll all kill each other to get it! And, if this doesn't get the men killing, he's left the other half to a pretty lady, as he apparently hopes the woman will also come between the men and give them incentive to kill! Perhaps that is why the killings have occurred. What's next? See the film...or don't bother if you haven't got a lot of patience!

I will cut "The Unholy Night" some slack. After all, it's an early talking picture, so you have to expect that the acting style isn't going to be great. Overacting is inevitable to some degree--but this film goes WAY beyond other 1928-29 productions! This is because it's like a tag-team film--where actors keep taking turns over-acting! The worst of these is probably Boris Karloff and a few, such as Roland Young, who actually were pretty restrained. But overall, it's incredibly dated and despite a neat plot idea, the film is only for old movie buffs who are not overly critical and who have realistic expectations!

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