The Black Castle (1952)
Here is somewhat of a departure for Noir/Western themed actor Stephen McNally. For this Universal International release he gets to ham it up immensely as Count Karl von Bruno who has an old score to settle with our hero Richard Greene. The film is set in jolly England of old with carriages, swordplay and dueling pistols mixed in with some wizardry on behalf of Boris Karloff.
Greene is out to prove that McNally is responsible for the death of two friends and under the guise of a different name visits him in the heart of his lands staying as a guest at The Black Castle of our title. Joining in the fun are McNally’s rather evil companions Michael Pate and John Hoyt. Also appearing as our menacing mute manservant is the heavy set Lon Chaney Jr. who this time out tries to give us Lenny with an evil twist. Karloff is riding the line between good and evil and keeps us guessing till the final fadeout as to his loyalties, Greene or McNally. Serving as the beautiful woman in distress for Greene to rescue is Paula Corday, the lady of the castle.
The plot is fairly routine but don’t let that stop you from enjoying McNally chew the scenery as if he were Vincent Price losing his marbles in The Pit and Pendulum. The film belongs to him.
Greene serves up a reliable stalwart hero as television audiences would soon see in his Robin Hood series of the late fifties. Interestingly, Greene played Sir Henry Baskerville in the 1939 Rathbone film and McNally’s character here reminds me of Sir Henry’s ancestor whom the hound can be traced to. Growing up the film was a must see because of Karloff and Chaney’s appearances but for Dear Boris this is one of many roles where his name would be used to promote the film but his role secondary and Chaney really doesn’t have much to do other than look menacing. Serving as director on his first film is a name that fantasy film fans are sure to recognize, Nathan Juran. He would team with Ray Harryhausen to do The 7th Voyage of Sinbad among others and wind up doing a fair bit of series tv.
At 81 minutes this black and white old fashioned thriller does it’s best to please.