In the Madrid of the 19th century a young man plays roulette. A mysterious character helps him by pointing with his walking stick the next number where the ball is going to fall. The ...
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In the Madrid of the 19th century a young man plays roulette. A mysterious character helps him by pointing with his walking stick the next number where the ball is going to fall. The protagonist is the only one able to see him. The mysterious man turn out to be the ghost of an archaelogist and ask the young man to defend his daughter from a gang of hunchbacks.Written by
Miguel A. Andrade <firstname.lastname@example.org>
THE TOWER OF THE SEVEN HUNCHBACKS (Edgar Neville, 1944) **1/2
I first heard of this obscure but intriguing little item on the "Time Out" Film Guide and obviously leapt at the chance to acquire it recently from a French source even if, alas, the print turned out to sport no English subtitles; I usually don't mind it so much in the case, for instance, of Jess Franco movies but I really felt like I was missing something here!
From what I could gather (the Spanish language is partly similar to the Italian in which I'm fluent, but the worn soundtrack present here didn't make it any easier for me!) is fairly rich in twists with a one-eyed ghost (who, Cocteau-like, uses a mirror as a portal from the netherworld) bidding our hero to seek a secret society of hunchbacks involved in the trafficking of archaeological artifacts (but, from reading what few reviews I could find about the film, the latter's also asked to protect the old man's daughter and help her expose his own murderer). While I'm at it, let me just catalogue what other plot/visual elements seem to have escaped me (or else have already receded into my subconscious given that I was watching it somewhat half-heartedly): the city of Hunchbacks was apparently built by victimized Jews during the Spanish Inquisition; there's talk of "thrilling horrors", "cobwebbed mummies" and "hypnotism", plus the fact that the villain (who, admittedly, is quite effective) is allowed to get away with it.
Even so, these reviews are equally contradictory: one calls it "anything but conventional" whereas another states "while the movie has a wonderfully expressionist look and the story is certainly inventive, the plot unfolds in a very conventional way, and while entertaining, it isn't exactly the masterpiece that could have been or that its very artistic look may indicate" for what it's worth, I tend to favor this latter view! Incidentally, while it would seem to evoke the feel of the contemporaneous Universal horror films, THE TOWER OF THE SEVEN HUNCHBACKS is really an obvious precursor to the loopier Mexican variety of genre outings which came into full swing during the subsequent decade. Like these other film buffs, however, I regretted the picture's comic relief (apparently, the source novel is more somber) at one point, for no apparent reason, even Napoleon's ghost puts in an appearance! and even more so the musical sequences.
What eventually made the film worthwhile, then, were the atmospheric sets (even if, at this juncture, I wouldn't quite use the epithet "must be seen to be believed" to describe them!) and monochrome lighting. Needless to say, I'm grateful for the opportunity to sample this 'lost classic' but I'd love to revisit it in an improved edition though, alas, I'm not holding my breath!
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