Sunday, July 25, 2010

January 26, 2010: Psychobabble recommends ‘The Black Room’

The Black Room (1935) begins as a Baroness gives birth to twins. Her husband is horrified to learn of this, as a family prophecy dictates that the next pair of twins born to it will end in murder: one will kill the other in a black room in the Baron’s Gothic castle, bringing the family line to an end. One of his buddies suggests bricking up the black room to side-step the prophecy, which the Baron thinks is a pretty good idea (I guess he didn’t read Oedipus in High School). Anyone with a passing knowledge of Greek tragedy can guess where this is all headed, but part of the pleasure of The Black Room is seeing just how the story unfolds. The main pleasure is undoubtedly Boris Karloff’s portrayal of twins Anton and Gregor. He plays Anton as a soft-spoken dandy. Gregor, the Kane to Anton’s Abel, is a bellowing slob who allows Karloff to fully indulge in his trademark gleeful nastiness. A superb showcase for Karloff’s range and R. William Neill’s lively direction, a trove of sumptuous Gothic interiors and exteriors abounding in secret chambers and skeletal trees, and a nifty precursor to “The Patty Duke Show” mashed into one delicious package, The Black Room is a little-seen treat for classic horror hounds. And look out for a completely unrecognizable and uncredited Edward Van Sloan as Gregor’s doctor!
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