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John Francis Dillon
Prophecy has it that younger twin Anton will kill brother Gregor in the castle's Black Room. Anton returns to the castle after a 10 year hiatus. Gregor, a Baron, has many attempts on his life as his subjects detest his tyranny. However, good natured Anton earns the subjects' respect, and the admiration of Col.Hassel, uncle of the beautiful Thea. When Gregor kills young servant Mashka, his subjects storm the castle to remove him. Devious Gregor renounces his title in favour of brother Anton to appease them. He then kills Anton to assume his identity and the Baronship again. He is free to pursue Thea with Col.Hassel's blessing. When Col.Hassel discovers Gregor's impersonation, he also meets death. With Thea's true love, Lt. Lussan, wrongfully convicted of Hassel's murder, it appears nothing can stop evil Gregor from ambushing her into marriage. But what of that prophecy? Written by
Gary Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Shooting began May 6, 1935, finished June 7, released July 15, 1935. Boris Karloff completed his scenes for "The Raven" one month earlier, on April 5. See more »
When Col. Hassell arrives at the inn to meet Anton near the beginning, there is no glass on the carriage window when the carriage arrives at the inn. There is also no sign of broken glass when the carriage arrives at the castle, but a shot is fired through the carriage's glass window en route. See more »
Another film I had been reading about since childhood but up till now have had no opportunity to watch.
An interesting star vehicle for Boris Karloff allowing him to play two roles as contrasting twins; the fact that one of them is deformed may owe something to Lon Chaney and here Karloff demonstrates himself a most worthy successor to the Master's mantle. The period setting - its-folk-tale quality hearkens back to German Expressionism - serves the handsome production extremely well, especially when considering that Columbia Pictures at the time was just starting to pose a serious challenge (following the Oscar sweep of Frank Capra's IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT ) to the major studios. Director Roy William Neill handles the proceedings with great efficiency and style providing plenty of visual flourishes along the way.
The only criticism one can level at the film regards a couple of slightly contrived plot points: the evil Karloff, who has done away with his benign but paralyzed sibling and whom he impersonates in order to win the girl he loves, is rather stupidly caught by the girl's father when he is spotted in a mirror using his 'lame' hand to sign the marriage contract; Karloff's come-uppance is brought about by his dead brother's faithful mastiff which hates his guts - it's implausible to think that the dog has kept away from Karloff for days (by which time the girl's lover has been convicted for her father's murder) only to conveniently reappear on his wedding day! However, the ironic climax - which allows the prophecy tied with Karloff's family name to be fulfilled - is a splendid one.
All in all, along with THE MASK OF FU MANCHU (1932) and THE WALKING DEAD (1936; see below), THE BLACK ROOM is Karloff's best vehicle of the 1930s which wasn't produced by the studio which made his name, Universal.
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