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The Unholy Night (1929)

Passed | | Mystery, Thriller | 14 September 1929 (USA)
On a dark foggy London night, someone tries to strangle Lord Montague, but he escapes. Only to discover the four other men who did get killed were old regimental comrades in Gallipoli. When... See full summary »


Lionel Barrymore


Ben Hecht (story), Edwin Justus Mayer (screen play) | 1 more credit »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Ernest Torrence ... Dr. Ballou
Roland Young ... Lord Montague
Dorothy Sebastian ... Lady Efra Cavendar
Natalie Moorhead ... Lady Violet Montague
Sydney Jarvis Sydney Jarvis ... The Butler
Polly Moran ... Polly - the Maid
George Cooper ... Frey - Lord Montague's Orderly
Sôjin Kamiyama ... The Mystic (as Sojin)
Claude Fleming Claude Fleming ... Sir James Rumsey
Clarence Geldart ... Inspector Lewis (as Clarence Geldert)
John Miljan ... Major Mallory
Richard Tucker ... Col. Davidson
John Loder ... Capt. Dorchester
Philip Strange Philip Strange ... Lieut. Williams
John Roche ... Lieut. Savor


On a dark foggy London night, someone tries to strangle Lord Montague, but he escapes. Only to discover the four other men who did get killed were old regimental comrades in Gallipoli. When Scotland Yard gets Monty to gather the other nine surviving officers at his home, one of them is murdered, and no one else has entered the house. Now, they must determine who the murderer is. Written by Kathy Li

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Between darkness and dawn...strange figures, stranger events fill this enthralling thriller to overflowing! See more »


Mystery | Thriller








Release Date:

14 September 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El espectro verde See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (Turner library print)

Sound Mix:

Mono (Western Electric System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.20 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


For reasons known only to MGM, Boris Karloff, prominently featured in a key supporting role, is not credited on screen, but his name is more sensibly listed in ninth credited position in the Variety review of 16 October 1929. See more »


Sir James Rumsey: Wasn't it you who screamed?
Polly, the maid: I never scream unless a fella gets gay with me.
See more »

Crazy Credits

[preface] The amazing revelations pictured here are compiled from one the most sensational murder cases on police record. The rare psychosis of the crime and the method of its exposure are stranger than fiction.....because they are true! See more »

Alternate Versions

This film was also released in a silent version. See more »


Alternate-language version of Le spectre vert (1930) See more »


Auld Lang Syne
(1788) (uncredited)
Traditional Scottish 17th century music
Lyrics by Robert Burns
Sung a cappella by the men of the regiment three times and at the seance
See more »

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User Reviews

Night, the fog, insanity and murder; now THAT'S entertainment!
24 August 2005 | by reptilicusSee all my reviews

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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