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Kino on Video presents
The Haunted Castle (1921)

"Is there anyone who isn't frightened by my house?"
- Lord von Vogelschrey of Vogelöd (Arnold Korff)

Review By: Mark Zimmer   
Published: March 16, 2009

Stars: Arnold Korff, L. Kyser-Korff, Lothar Mehnert, Olga Tschechowa
Other Stars: Paul Hartmann, Paul Bildt, Victor Blütner
Director: F.W. Murnau

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suicide, disturbing images)
Run Time: 01h:21m:30s
Release Date: March 17, 2009
UPC: 738329062422
Genre: suspense thriller


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B B-A-B C-

DVD Review

Renowned German director F.W. Murnau stormed onto the cinematic scene with his adaptation of Dracula, Nosferatu (1922). Another title in his filmography that may be intriguing is The Haunted Castle, which comes here to DVD in an attractive version, though it will probably be disappointing ultimately to those seeking the roots of Nosferatu.

Despite the foreboding title, the story is a rather modest whodunit that takes place at the chateau of Lord Vogelschrey of Vogelöd (Arnold Korff) over a period of three days. A group of nobles has gathered there for a hunting party, though the fun is dampened by an incessant rain. Count Johann Oetsch (Lothar Mehnert) arrives, uninvited, unexpected and unwelcome, for he is reputed to have murdered his own brother, Count Peter Paul Oetsch (Paul Hartmann) in order to inherit the family fortune. Things become uncomfortable when the widow of Count Peter (Olga Tschechowa) also arrives, she having since remarried Baron Safferstätt (Paul Bildt). The guest become increasingly nervous over the tensions, which are only heightened when the monkish Father Faramund mysteriously vanishes from his room after hearing part of the tale of the death of Count Peter from the widow.

There's very little of the fantastic or horrific here to tempt the horror buff; the closest example is a dream sequence in which one of the guests imagines a horrific hand (rather like that of Graf Orlok from Nosferatu) clutching at him from an open window and dragging him away. The impact is blunted significantly by immediately being followed by the dream of the kitchen boy, which is a rather ridiculous revenge fantasy involving frosting and retaliation against the head cook. There is, however, a healthy sampling of atmosphere at the chateau, with effective use of shadows that foreshadows some of Murnau's most notable work. The model work on the chateau is unconvincing enough that it lends a decent air of unearthliness to the setting.

The mystery itself is pretty thin stuff, and will in all probability be solved by most viewers within minutes of the characters being introduced. It's better to think of it as a psychological drama than an actual mystery. That would have been aided by a bit longer running time, though it's not clear that the screenwriters are up to the task. Mehnert is effective enough, with a disquieting face reminisicent of Martin Landau's, and regal bearing that makes it clear he is unlikely to be the actual villain. Several of the guests are suitably twitchy, and the guilt-ridden characters who attempt to cover up their sins are counterpointed by several who are all too ready to accuse Count Oetsch of fratricide. It's not entirely satisfying, but it's watchable other than a few odd moments of excessive histrionics.

The presentation here is the 2002 restoration by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Stiftung, and it looks far better than one might expect for a picture of this vintage. It looks far better than any print extant of Nosferatu, for instance,though it doesn't have that picture's checkered legal history either.

Rating for Style: B
Rating for Substance: B-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Rationo
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: The original full-frame picture unfortunately suffers from modest PAL/NTSC ghosting (one would be tempted to say that's appropriate for a story about a haunted castle), though it's not terribly bad or noticeable when run at proper speed. The restoration, from the original negative and a nitrate print, looks spectacularly good, with plenty of texture and detail and an excellent greyscale. It seems nearly pristine, with only a mild flicker to remind one that it wasn't shot just recently. The tints are subtle and attractive. If not for the ghosting, it'd be one of the nicest looking silents I've yet seen.

Image Transfer Grade: A-

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Mono(music only)no


Audio Transfer Review: The audio track is a piano score by Neil Brandt. While it follows the mood of the film pretty well, it avoids annoying mickeymousing and keeps in the role of moodsetter rather than drawing attention to itself. The recording quality is reasonably good, though it's somewhat lacking in presence and the soundstage feels a bit cramped.

Audio Transfer Grade: B

 

Disc Extras

Static menu with music
Scene Access with 18 cues and remote access
Production Notes
Packaging: generic plastic keepcase
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Image galleries
Extras Review: The first extra is a set of excerpts from the source novel, Schloss Vogelöd by Rudolf Stratz, which apparently has never before been rendered into English. The description shows how much characterization depth is eliminated from the cinematic version, and the changes to the actual story will be of interest. Two galleries collect a handful of unused set designs that would have taken this into a German Expressionist realm, and a set of stills from the 1936 remake offers a glimpse at another take on the story (which oddly enough resembles this one quite closely).

Extras Grade: C-

 

Final Comments

The title notwithstanding, this is a fairly pedestrian offering that's mostly of interest for historical purposes. But it looks terrific, and the extras, while thin, are of significant interest.

 


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