VOGELOD (aka THE HAUNTED CASTLE)
DVD region 2. Eureka.
legendary director F.W. Murnau, this is a rather entertaining
silent melodrama that holds up surprisingly well. Somewhat misleadingly
known in English as The Haunted Castle and shot
before Nosferatu and Murnau’s impressive
later work, it doesn’t have as much of the impressive visual
trickery of his later works, but moves at a cracking pace and
despite suffering (retrospectively) from many of the problems
that mar silent movies, is still very watchable.
The story takes place in the title castle, where assorted wealthy
men have gathered for a hunt, only to have their fun rained off
for days. Things take a turn for the unpleasant when uninvited
guest Count Johann Oetsch (Lothar Mehnert) turns up. Although
acquitted, he is widely held to be guilty of the murder of his
bother – and to make matters more awkward, the widow of
the murdered man is about to arrive too. However, things are not
all that they seem, and through some interesting chicanery, the
truth is revealed.
The film manages to have a slow pace without becoming slow moving,
as the mystery is unfolded, and Murnau’s direction is effortlessly
assured. There are some remarkable visual moments – not
least of all a creepy nightmare scene that could be right out
of Haxan – and the twist at the finale
is a genuine surprise (actually, I guessed it about two minutes
before it was revealed, but still…).
Of course, the acting – especially from leading lady Olga
Tschechowa – is overly dramatic, the curse of films where
the lack of dialogue meant that performances had to be excessively
exaggerated. Seen today, many (though certainly not all) of the
actors seem ridiculously over the top – but that is unfortunately
the case with most silent films. And here, the theatrical nature
of the performances actually add to the strange atmosphere of
Long unseen, Schloss Vogelod is a welcome addition
to Eureka’s Masters of Cinema series. The DVD comes
complete with a rather dry 30 minute documentary about Murnau
and a booklet that wasn’t included with the screener but
which, if past releases are anything to go by, will be well worthwhile..
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