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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

THE BLACK ROOM (1935)

House megger Roy William Neill, who churned out those handsome updated Sherlock Holmes pics @ Universal, can’t maintain a consistent visual style in this Boris Karloff thriller made @ Columbia in their Poverty Row days. The production shifts awkwardly from large sets & hordes of extras to cramped sound stages with cycloramas out of a High School drama club. The familiar story involves twin brothers (one Good/one Bad) who are the cursed heirs to a duchy. The story & effects are nicely worked out and it’s tremendous fun watching Karloff attempting to look alternately benign and benighted with the same overenthusiastic smile. If only Columbia had better contract players for him to play with. Watch for the tricky reveal shot which features an extreme zoom lens shot rare for the period. Nice.

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