The Unholy Night (1929)

Article #967 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 11-7-2003
Posting Date: 4-5-2004
Directed by Lionel Barrymore
Featuring Ernest Torrence, Roland Young, Dorothy Sebastian

Someone is killing off the members of a regiment, and a Scotland Yard inspector believes the culprit may be one of the remaining members.

Once again we hit a movie that was directed by someone better known as an actor, in this case, Lionel Barrymore. Actually, it’s kind of difficult to really gauge his success in this enterprise, as this is one of those early talkies that is somewhat stiff and static due to the limitations that were imposed by early sound techniques. Nonetheless, this one is fairly watchable, largely due to a fairly decent story with a surprising number of clever twists, a witty script from a Ben Hecht story, and a fun performance by Roland Young. The movie also features an uncredited performance by Boris Karloff in the pivotal role of Abdoul, and sadly, it just isn’t one of Karloff’s shining moments. Karloff had considerable talents, but he was not a master of accents, and the Arabian accent (I think that’s what is was supposed to be) not only makes him sound unnatural, but it appears to have resulted in a certain degree of overacting as well. The horror elements become quite marked as the movie progresses, especially during a particularly effective seance sequence near the end of the movie. All in all, one of the better early talkies I’ve seen.

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