Prophecy has it that younger twin Anton will kill brother Gregor in the castle\'s Black Room. Anton returns to the castle after a 10 year hiatus. Gregor, a Baron, has many attempts on his life as his subjects detest his tyranny. However, good natured Anton earns the subjects\' respect, and the admiration of Col.Hassel, uncle of the beautiful Thea.
When Gregor kills young servant Mashka, his subjects storm the castle to remove him. Devious Gregor renounces his title in favour of brother Anton to appease them. He then kills Anton to assume his identity and the Baronship again. He is free to pursue Thea with Col.Hassel\'s blessing. When Col.Hassel discovers Gregor\'s impersonation, he also meets death.
With Thea\'s true love, Lt. Lussan, wrongfully convicted of Hassel\'s murder, it appears nothing can stop evil Gregor from ambushing her into marriage. But what of that prophecy?
Boris Karloff ... Baron Gregor de Bergmann / Anton de Bergmann
Marian Marsh ... Thea Hassel
Robert Allen ... Lt. Albert Lussan
Thurston Hall ... Col. Paul Hassel
John Buckler ... Buran, the gypsy
Torben Meyer ... Peter, the majordomo
Katherine DeMille ... Mashka
Henry Kolker ... Baron de Berghman
Colin Tapley ... Paul Hassel as a young lieutenant
Edward Van Sloan ... Doctor
Egon Brecher ... Lead Villager (dark leather hat)
Helena Grant ... Anna, the housekeeper
Marion Lessing ... Maria, the chambermaid
Robert Middlemass ... The Prosecutor
Boris Karloff only made a handful of movies that demonstrated he had some real range as an actor, and of that handful, THE BLACK ROOM has to rate as one of the best. In this work, Karloff plays twin brothers of a family of aristocrats. The older brother Gregor is a nasty piece of work. He is the titular head of the family of land barons, and has long developed a reputation for brutality in the region he governs. His estate is notorious for having disappeared several young women. Anton, the younger of the twins, is a cosmopolitan sort, has been away travelling and studying for many years. Both men are haunted by a family prophecy, in which the younger of the two twins is supposed to slay the older in order to complete a family curse, which apparently began in the \"black room\" of the film\'s title.
The room itself was ordered sealed shortly after the birth of the twins in order to avert a repeat of the tragedy. Unbeknownst to the villagers, Gregor has found a hidden passage into the black room, and it is the torture pit of the room where he disposes of the bodies of his victims.
Anton, the younger brother, returns home upon the urging of his brother Gregor, who has, after several attempts on his life, realized that he must step aside in order to calm the people down. Gregor has in mind a phoney abdication in which he seems to step aside in favor of his twin. His actual plan is to murder Anton, and to continue to reign in Anton\'s identity, in his own twist on the family curse. He falls over his own hubris for a number of personal reasons, but before film\'s end, he manages to indulge in a round of crafty Karloffian mayhem.
Karloff plays both the monstrous and benign brothers, but in addition, he portrays the nasty brother imitating the gentle one. That\'s what makes this piece fun. Seventy minutes of the grand old man of the gothics at his best. I\'ve probably seen it about thirty times now, and it holds up well.
In dual roles, Boris Karloff dominates this surprisingly elegant, first rate thriller. Karloff doubles the scare factor as twin brothers living under the spell of ancient curse. The gloomy tone of the story mixes unexpectedly well with the picturesque and luxurious look of Stephen Goosson\'s production design. The contrast is interesting and stimulating. Acts of violence are presented in a realistic way, placing the film closer to modern sensibilities than most horror films from Hollywood\'s Golden Era. Even more remarkable is the fact that the villain is a vicious psychopathic serial killer who seems to have been taken out of today\'s headlines. It is the kind of evil that is recognizable. Karloff is simply superb in two distinctively different roles. The film gives fans of the actor a rare chance to see him twice for the price of one. He makes you forget that the same actor is playing both parts. I liked how he never overdoes the differences between his two characters, using subtle gestures to distinguish the brothers. I think it is one of Karloff\'s very best performances, right up there with his more famous roles. Neill\'s direction is full of little cinematic touches that studious of the genre will love. His impressive job rivals the work of Tod Browning and James Whale in their respective horror classics. I treasured the scenes in the \"black room\" and the sequences where both Karloffs interact. The supporting cast is excellent too. Katherine De Mille (Cecil\'s daughter) makes her mark as Karloff\'s servant and mistress. It\'s an exceptionally well made chiller.
\"The Black Room\" was made for Columbia Pictures at the peak of star Boris Karloff\'s career. Not as well known perhaps as some of his other films, it nevertheless ranks in my humble opinion, as one of his best. Karloff\'s acting talents are not always given their due however, this film showcases his remarkable talent.
In the early 19th century twins are born to the DeBerghman family, who rule a Czech province. It seems that there is a curse upon the DeBerghmans that states when the next set of twins are born, the family will be destroyed. The younger of the twins under the prophecy will apparently murder the older twin in \"The Black Room\". The Black Room is sealed off by the twins father (Henry Kolker).
Fast forward 40 years or so. The older of the twins Gregor (Karloff) is the Baron of the province. He is an evil and brutal sadist despised by all of his subjects. Several young women have \"disappeared\" within the walls of his castle angering the towns people.
To countermand this, Gregor sends for his brother Anton (Karloff again) in order to carry out his evil plan. Anton is the opposite of Gregor, a kind, just and fair minded man. The pair attend a dinner party at the home of their lifelong friend Colonel Hassle (Thurston Hall). There Anton meets Hassle\'s young daughter Thea (Marian Marsh) and is attracted to her. Gregor also harbors a desire for the young woman. Thea\'s heart though belongs to the dashing young Lt. Albert Lussan (Robert Allen).
When Gregor murders his gypsy mistress Mashka (Katherine Demille), her lover Buran (John Buckler) incites the towns people to attack the Baron\'s castle. Gregor then renounces his title and names the more popular Anton as the new Baron. Later Gregor reveals to Anton a secret entrance to the black room. Inside, Gregor casts Anton into a deep pit and leaves him there to die. Gregor now believes that the prophecy can no longer be fulfilled since Anton, the younger twin, is now dead.
Gregor assumes the identity of Anton and goes to Col. Hassle to seek the hand of the fair Thea. Hassle happily agrees believing Gregor to be Anton. When Hassle discovers the ruse, he is murdered and the blame placed upon Albert Lussan. Then Gregor goes ahead with his plans to marry the unsuspecting Thea and........................
Director Roy William Neill (who directed many of the Universal Sherlock Holmes films) allows Karloff to give perhaps the best overall performance of his career. He is able to almost convince the audience that there are two different actors playing the twins. He conveys the evil and cunning of Gregor while playing Anton as a gentler more kind person.
The set pieces are as good as anything in Karloff\'s Universal classics of the same period. Neill gives us the proper mood, settings and darkness of the story.
Robert Allen was also a \"B\" western star (as Bob Allen) in the 30s. Katherine DeMille was the adopted daughter of famed director Cecil B. DeMille and was married for a time to Anthony Quinn.
The Black Room is a great movie. The sets are poor, it lacks the grandeur necessary for a period movie, it obviously had an incredibly low budget, even the premise is poor (though the script had a good twist), mostly Z-grade material, and if that weren\'t enough, the acting by Karloff\'s colleagues is abysmal. However Boris Karloff is GREAT in this, I have seen many of his films, which range in quality quite staggeringly, my favourites being the Tourneur movies (least favourite the mad doctors), however in this film his acting is EXTRAORDINARY.
In what is perhaps his greatest performance he plays twin brothers Anton and Gregor so incredibly convincingly. One is an innocent sensitive fop, the other an evil sociopath, what range, what awesome acting! Somehow he seems to make both of them endearing! Let me tell you they certainly don\'t do it like this anymore.
I am an identical twin myself and it is hard to believe that you aren\'t watching the performances of twin brothers. The twin dynamic is certainly there, and the scenes when both characters are on screen together are seamless, due to some obviously very clever trickery and Karloff\'s skill. I can\'t think offhand of many examples of greater acting in film history, certainly few other actors have Karloff\'s range.