Movie Review: The Black Castle (1952)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1952 action thriller starring Richard Greene and Boris Karloff.

Synopsis: When two of his friends disappear while in Austria, Sir Ronald Burton suspects the sinister Count Karl von Bruno may be the reason behind it and, traveling under an alias, decides to investigate. Unfortunately for him, the count suspects something is amiss and, when his secret finally is revealed, Burton must escape the Count's booby trap-laden castle.

Review

My youngest daughter wanted to attend a high school volleyball game last night (she had a free pass) so, while my wife took her, I elected to stay home and watch a movie with our other child. We've had this film saved to our DVR for a very long time and, mostly so we could free up some more recording space, I decided to finally watch it. Overall, I enjoyed it.

First of all, despite the movie's "official" classification and having two horror movie legends like Karloff and Chaney, Jr., I don't view this film as a horror film. If anything, I think I would classify it more as a swashbuckling action movie.

Part of the reason for this was the casting of Greene (best known for playing Robin Hood on TV) in the lead role. But, ultimately, there was nothing about this film that screamed "you should be scared" to me. Even the more intense/scarier scenes reminded me more of what I would expect to see in an Indiana Jones movie than a horror film. Fortunately, the movie does work really well as an action movie, starting with the mandatory tavern sword fight in the beginning and ending with the hero's daring escape from an escape-proof castle.

Karloff, for his part, does do a pretty decent job of adding even more excitement and suspense to the movie in his role of Dr. Meissen. I liked how his character turned out to be an ally who was willing to help the hero but, at the same time, was just enough of a coward where it was probably only a matter of time before he changed allegiances. The uncertainty regarding that character did keep things from becoming too predictable.

The same could be said about Chaney Jr.'s Gargon. Not only was he menacing looking, it was very hard to get a read on him. He was one of those characters that was either an obvious bad guy or could possibly turn out to be a good guy, especially since he was a mute and couldn't communicate his intentions.

I think my only real complaint about this film is I wasn't a huge fan of the romance between Burton and the count's wife (Corday). Part of this was because it just didn't seem necessary, the main plot would have worked just as well without adding a female love interest. A bigger reason, however, was it just seemed forced. It would have maybe been believable had they been romantically involved before or had at least known each other previously. But, they were professing their undying love after literally knowing each other for maybe a day. Even my daughter was rolling her eyes at that.

The Black Castle

An Englishman enters an Austrian nobleman's castle, complete with torture chamber and alligator moat.

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Final Opinion

Despite some of the top-billed actors, you shouldn't watch this movie expecting it to be a horror film. However, if you like classic action movies, it's worth taking the time to watch.

My Grade: B

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Updated: 10/11/2019, StevenHelmer
 
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