The Black Room
Film: The Black Room
Director: Roy William Neill
Writer: Arthur Strawn and Henry Myers
Starring: Boris Karloff, Marian Marsh and Robert Allen
This film begins with a woman giving birth. She is the baroness and her husband is played by Henry Kolker. He is upset when he learns that she had twins. There is a prophecy for his family, that their family began with twins with the younger one being jealous of his older brother and killed him for the title, power and lands. The prophecy states that twins will mark the end of the family. Kolker’s best friend is played by Colin Tapley at this time and he tells him that it is not the case. The prophecy also states that the killing of their ancestors was done in the black room, which is where they will end. It is Tapley’s idea to seal the room and Kolker agrees.
We then see through the years that the baroness dies and then Kolker. We then see that the elder brother, Baron Gregor de Berghman is played by Boris Karloff. We soon learn that he is ruthless and his people do not like him. They want to kill him. He is still close with his father’s friend, who is now a colonel and played by Thurston Hall.
Boris Karloff also plays the younger twin, Anton de Berghman. He is very nice, but his right arm was paralyzed at birth. He fled his family estate ten years ago due to Gregor and how he treated him. Gregor especially fears the prophecy as he is the one who is supposed to be murdered.
Anton returns to see that Gregor is happy to see him. He wants to forget about the prophecy and to live together. He wants to share the estate with his twin.
Hall has a daughter that is quite beautiful, played by Marian Marsh. She plays the harp and is innocent. She is in love with a solider, played by Robert Allen.
The townspeople want to kill Gregor as women keep turning up missing after they visit him. There is a woman, played by Katherine DeMille, who is interested in Gregor, but she is also seeing another man, played by Torben Meyer. She goes up to the castle and she reveals that she knows about the secret entrance into the black room. She is killed that night.
Anton comes to his brother’s defense and Gregor states that his real plan has been to turn over his estate to Anton. Gregor states that he is planning to leave the country like his brother had done, since everyone despises him. He asks Hall to draw up the papers to make the transfer.
Once everyone leaves though, we see his true plan. Gregor murders his brother and assumes identity. Anton did have a dog that he brought with him, who can tell the twins apart. Gregor’s next ploy is set up a marriage between himself and Marsh. Hall discovers though that it is Gregor pretending to be Anton. He kills him and blames it on Allen, who had an argument with him earlier.
Will Gregor get away with his plot? Will they figure out the truth before it is too late?
I have to say that this is an interesting film. I personally love films that deal with prophecies and how they are fulfilled. Gregor does exactly what the prophecy said would happen, but he is too proud to realize it. I think the acting is good from Karloff, especially speaking that he is playing two completely opposite characters. I also liked Hall, even though his character comes off as fake. He is the first to want to push Gregor out, even though they are supposed to be somewhat close. As stated, I really like the concept and the story plays itself out well. This film has a low running time, so it plays out quickly.
My biggest issues with films from this era are that there is usually a lack of subplots. I feel this film would have benefited from one to help to flesh it out a little bit more. I also feel that this film focuses a little too much on Karloff, so we don’t get to see any of the supporting characters developed much. I also had an issue that the dog doesn’t seem to do much. He didn’t seem to like Gregor from the beginning, but he doesn’t make much of a fuss when his owner disappears. I find this to be unrealistic, especially how the ending ends up playing out.
Now with that said, I would recommend giving this one a viewing. Karloff is great as both characters. The supporting cast, even though they are not developed really, is pretty good as well. I love the concept and the story is lacking a subplot to fully flesh it out, but it is still good. I will warn you that being from the 1930s, it is black and white, so keep that in mind. If you can get past it, this film is pretty good.
My Rating: 7 out of 10