Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Black Room (1935): 6.5/10

The Black Room (1935): 6.5/10

At first I did not know whether or not I was going to like this particular Boris Karloff film due to its very stilted dialogue in the beginning. It felt unfinished and confusingly unclear not ni plot but in moments. Then there was a scene about 20 minutes in when Boris Karloff is talking about a pear and I was hooked.

This 1935 Boris Karloff horror flick is set in past Czechoslovakia and concerns a twin set of Barons who are born and are expected at some point to the dismay of many to fulfill a prohecy in which the younger twin will kill the older twin. The film is about the events that set the prophecy into motion but not quite in the way we expect. The twins Anton and Gregor are played by Boris Karloff in a very meaty role between the two characters. Anton is the younger twin and the nicer one who has been gone for 10 years because of his fear that the prohecy would be fulfilled. He has spent his time studying and traveling. His right arm was also paralyzed since birth. The evil twin, Gregor was left to act as Baron and govern the people and he is pretty awful. He seems to be responsible for the dissapearance of many women and he's just an all around douche. Anyways Anton comes home because of a letter in which Gregor requests him to return. There is a girl named Thea as well played by Marian Marsh. So what did I think of this film? Overall I quite enjoyed it, especially once it got going. There is not anything really overtly scary in this but I do think that Karloff can be very terrifying and so the scares basically come from the ridiculous vibe of skeeviness that he puts on here. He does a fantastic job as both brothers. He felt genuine and naive as the nice one and like I said, ridiculously skeevy as the other one. The scary element or rather disturbing element of the story is the length that Gregor will go to secure his place with Thea. My favorite scenes were the ones when Gregor was pretending to be Anton. He does not play these scenes overtly but because we know it is Gregor, we read his delivery of lines completely differently and its very interesting to watch as a result.

Marian Marsh does a very nice job here. Her reaction to certain things felt very underwhelming but she had a way of delivering this one line that she had and it completely won me over with the creativity that she said that line with. There is also a small part played by Katherine DeMille, the adpoted daughter of Cecil B. DeMille who is a standout here. The film is decently shot but there are definitely 2 standout shots that I can think of that really impressed me.

I am becoming very quickly a HUGE fan of Karloff. Absolutely and completely superior to Lugosi in every way shape and form. There is no contest. I had only seen him in Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Scarface and of course as the narrator of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I had not reallly seen him in the roles that involve his beautiful voice (which obviously I was aware of from the Grinch). Now since I have been watching some stuff with him I have become enthralled. After having seen him recently in this, The Old Dark House, Isle of the Dead, The Body Snatcher and Targets I can safely say he has earned a spot on my favorite actors list.

My last comment on this is that I really enjoyed that a dog played a really significant part in this. He is sort of the reason the film goes where it does which was random and amusing.

Overall while I did have some problems with the film, (rough start, villagers reacting to certain situations in stupid ways) Karloff makes it for me and the plot is quite intruiging on its own. Check this out if you ever stumble upon it. It's like an hour long.

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