Haunted Castle, The (1921)

An early below-average work from Murnau that is neither here nor there from a genre perspective, whether as a murder mystery or horror film. 

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review #2,065

Dir. F.W. Murnau
1921 | Germany | Drama/Crime | 81 mins | 1.33:1 | Silent with English intertitles
Not rated – likely to be PG

Cast: Arnold Korff, Lulu Kyser-Korff, Lothar Mehnert
Plot: In the Castle Vogeloed, a party of aristocrats assemble for an autumn hunt. But a long-lingering question threatens once more to rear its head: who really murdered the Baroness’s late husband? Especially when his brother, a notorious Count who is believed to have murdered him, arrives uninvited.
Awards: –
Source: Kino International

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: MUBI
Spoilers: No

This certainly doesn’t even hold a candle to the half-decent, let alone best works of F.W. Murnau, and although I wasn’t bored watching it, I came out feeling unsatisfied. 

Made one year before one of his most famous films, Nosferatu (1922), The Haunted Castle could be seen as a stepping stone for Murnau to deal with horror, but truth be told, there is nothing that might constitute as horror in this film, apart from a short nightmare scene. 

One might classify The Haunted Castle more as a murder mystery, though the way the narrative is set up, there is little in the way of suspense—or surprises. 

As several aristocrats await a Baroness in a castle, an uninvited Count turns up.  He is thought to have murdered his brother, who is also the Baroness’ husband, but is never convicted.  He hopes to prove his innocence, though his snobbish attitude doesn’t win him any favours. 

There is an attempt at creating some kind of bleak atmosphere with the endless torrential rain, while the arrival of a priest appears to add another interesting pawn to a predictable chess game, but Murnau’s film ultimately doesn’t go anywhere, and from a genre perspective, it doesn’t really contribute anything of note as well.  Unless you are a Murnau completist, otherwise give this a skip.      

Grade: C

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