Honeymooning in Hungary, Joan and Peter Allison share their train compartment with Dr. Vitus Verdegast, a courtly but tragic man who is returning to the remains of the town he defended before becoming a prisoner of war for fifteen years. When their hotel-bound bus crashes in a mountain storm and Joan is injured, the travellers seek refuge in the home, built fortress-like upon the site of a bloody battlefield, of famed architect Hjalmar Poelzig. There, cat-phobic Verdegast learns his wife's fate, grieves for his lost daughter, and must play a game of chess for Allison's life.Written by
Sister Grimm <firstname.lastname@example.org>
The adjoining door connecting Joan's room to Peter's changes from a sliding door (in scenes in the first half of the film) to a hinge-opening door (beginning when the black cat enters Joan's room followed by Karen and thereafter). See more »
[looking over Joan's passport]
Mr. and Mrs. Alison, Car 96, Compartment F. Orient Express, Budapest, Visegrad.
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I won't comment about the acting or plot -- there's plenty of that here already. What I'd rather do is call attention to the visuals -- the cinematography, lighting, costuming, and especially the set design.
Normally, horror films take place in ancient settings -- crude medieval fortresses and rustic castles that are dark, cluttered and gloomy. But this one is set in a perversely utopian sci-fi fantasy -- the clean lined, impeccably detailed, generously glazed modernistic and (usually) radiantly lit white-and-silver upper floor interiors of the house.
The lower floor is an expressionistic prison, also clean lined, but still dungeon-like with its windowless walls of exposed board-formed concrete. An elegant steel spiral staircase connects the two, and the angular expressionism reaches its culmination in the chamber used for the black mass.
Karloff's costumes recall Oskar Schemmer's Bauhaus-produced work -- angular, broad-shouldered, narrow-waisted and elegant. Even the haircut of this man of the future in sharp and angular. His character is an engineer and architect and is given the name -- Poelzig -- of a famous expressionist German architect and film set designer of the time, who was a colleague of the director on an earlier film. The elegant futurism in carried down to the detail level, including a digital night-table clock and an abstract chess set. Much of the genius of this movie is that it breaks the horror-movie visual mold, and floods it with light, creating a fascinating tension between plot and setting.
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