In the following year to Universal’s The Strange Door, the production house would release the last real gothic horror story in their canon, The Black Castle. It would pull out all the stops in another melodramatic tale, harbouring the talents of Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr to steer the film both from a financial and credibility perspective.
The movie didn’t come without its problems however with original director Joseph Pevney stepping aside due his lack of faith in the script to make way for art director Nathan Juran to take the helm for what would be his first time in the director’s chair. Juran would go on to direct The Deadly Mantis; Attack of the 50ft Woman; and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad among his credits. For his initial feature though, he would openly admit that he was guided by the on screen talent to provide their valuable knowledge in the films making.
The plot for The Black Castle is admittedly minimalistic and in that sense, one can understand Pevney’s reservations. It also has similar themes to The Strange Door around imprisonment and escape from an evil antagonist, this time in the guise of Count Von Bruno (Stephen McNally).
The movie has been treated kindly by notable reviewers retrospectively, most notably because of its high quality in most of the production elements, and the cast are strong enough to ground the film. For me, the film doesn’t hold enough appeal to make it an iconic one.
Cinephiles will appreciate it for its cinematic value at the decline of Universal horror which is warranted, but others may struggle to connect to the films narrative.
- Saul Muerte