One knows they are watching a good movie when the credits roll and it introduces Boris Karloff as its star. Called The Black Room, the film is about two brothers who are the lords of the land. Gregor has been ruling for a number of years while his brother Anton has been away, and while doing so, the former has been murdering a number of young ladies unbeknownst to the latter. There is a prophecy, or a curse depending on how and who views it, that the younger brother will murder the older and when Anton returns home at Gregor’s calling, it is to his regret that he will experience that prophecy firsthand, but in reverse.
Made in 1935 by Columbia Pictures in-between Karloff’s Universal films, it is a fun little horror outing that relies more so on Karloff’s ability to act all menacing and the like rather than upon any sort of special effect. And it works. Quite well as a matter of fact. Karloff has always been able to play creepy and disturbing and as the evil brother Gregor, he does a great job especially when he is getting lecherous around the ladies. It is also to Karloff’s credit that he can always play the straight man believably well and does so as his own twin Anton. At times the dialogue is dated and even a little stilted, but the cast does its best with what they have and as such, the film turned out quite well.
Roy William Neill does a great job behind the camera ensuring the movie conveys the proper moods at the proper times. The Black Room, the actual room within the castle, is reminiscent of many of filmdom’s torture chambers and prisons and gives off that dank and dingy feeling whenever the story takes the audience there. The set itself was most likely just a back-lot at the studio but is serviceable enough as the story does not really take place anywhere other than the one setting which is fine when trying to keep a handle on the budget of a film like most studios were trying to do at the time.
Is The Black Room worth seeking out to spend some time on? Yes, if not for Karloff alone. Marian Marsh does a nice job of playing the leading lady, being both attractive and virginal as most horror films were wont to portray the women back when. It worked out quite well casting her opposite Karloff as she is so much younger than he; it makes him that much more sinister looking. So if looking for something to pass the time with, then check this film out and watch Karloff at work doing what he does best.