The Thirteenth Chair (1929)

THE THIRTEENTH CHAIR (1929)
Article #1058 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 2-6-2004
Posting Date: 7-5-2004
Directed by Tod Browning
Featuring Conrad Nagel, Leila Hyams, Margaret Wycherlie

A seance is held to discover the identity of a murderer. When the man seeking the identity is himself killed, an inspector tries to figure out both murders.

DRACULA fans might find this early pairing of Bela Lugosi (playing the inspector) and Tod Browning of interest. The story itself is not a bad one, and Margaret Wycherly’s medium character is well performed. Unfortunately, several factors turned this into a difficult watch for me; the stagey direction, the bad sound (both in terms of the movie itself and my copy of it as well), occasional fits of overacting (particularly at the end), the poor nth-generation dupe of my copy, and the lack of any real visual sense all combine to make this one a tough watch. In a sense, it’s like watching DRACULA without the first fifteen minutes of that movie, though the seance itself and a sequence involving a dead man are the only horror elements to this one. It’s not a total loss; you can definitely see why Lugosi became a star and he gives the best performance here. You’ll just need to keep in mind the time it was made when watching it.

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