The Black Room (1935)

The Black Room: 7 out of 10: In the Tim Burton film “Ed Wood” Martin Landau’s Bela Lugosi complains about his rival Boris Karloff continuing to work even though he played Frankenstein which required only grunting under heavy make-up as opposed to accented seductive Dracula.

Well I hate to point this out to a long dead actor but Karloff can really act. The Black Room is a tour de force performance.

Karloff plays three roles (two twins and one twin pretending to be the other) and manages to give them such a distinctive nuanced performances I squinted at the screen to make sure it really was the same actor in the roles.

The story itself is quite a good set-up. With one brother a devilish tyrant with a taste for village girls and the other a slightly fey traveler with a birth defect. Hanging over their head is a family curse that states one brother will kill the other in the titular Black Room.

There are twists and turns and as many reviews have pointed out this is more a costume drama/mystery than straight horror film. The supporting cast is competent and the sets are well done but this is Karloff’s show and he runs away with it.