Monday, October 19, 2009


The best sequence in this film is the opening, featuring Richard Greene in a coffin, apparently dead but actually alive but in a coma-like state, unable to communicate with the two men who are preparing him for burial. The bulk of the film is a flashback showing how Greene, an English nobleman, got in this predicament. Investigating the strange disappearance of two friends, he is put on the trail of the eye-patched Count Von Bruno (Stephen McNally). Greene, incognito, arrives at McNally's Austrian estate for a hunting vacation. He doesn't find his friends, but he falls for the Countess (Rita Corday) who was forced into a marriage she didn't want. As he vows to help her get away, he must also contend with a brutish mute manservant (Lon Chaney Jr.), an African panther, a pit of crocodiles, some sword-wielding henchmen, a spot of torture, and a doctor (Boris Karloff) who, when Greene and Corday get in a tight spot, agrees to give them a serum that will put them in a death-like state for twelve hours, theoretically allowing them to escape the grounds in their coffins. However, as we saw in the opening, that plan backfires. Will good (Greene) triumph over evil (McNally)? The first scene, set on a windy night in a spooky courtyard, with howling dogs in the background, sets the bar high, but the movie never again reaches this height of horrific atmosphere. In fact, it plays out more like a Gothic-tinged swashbuckling melodrama than a full-blooded horror film. Greene and Karloff (in a particularly small role) are good; McNally is OK but not as dreadfully imposing as he should be. John Hoyt and Michael Pate are the wicked henchmen. Henry Corden, later the voice of Fred Flintstone in the 80's and 90's, is a sympathetic servant. The sets are good, but overall the film is a bit too "off" in most departments to be a truly effective shocker. [DVD]

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