Baron Boris Karloff is an 1830’s tyrant, and right before the villagers can violently depose him, he suggests (to the surprisingly patient angry mob) trading places with his lovable, crippled twin brother Anton. Everyone (except maybe the brother) is pleased. Before going into exile the outgoing baron shows his brother around the place, takes him into the cursed Black Room, and shoves him down a hole to his death – then pretends to have a crippled arm and a soft, friendly manner in order to retain power and marry the pretty harpist Marian Marsh (the poor girl who turns Peter Lorre’s criminal life around in Sternberg’s Crime & Punishment).
Now all Fake Anton has to do is avoid using his right arm, and never return to the black room, where the ancient prophecy said he’ll die. But signing a marriage document, his would-be father-in-law (Thurston Hall of The Great McGinty and Renoir’s This Land is Mine) spies him in a mirror (in a lovely zoom shot) and has to get murdered, the crime pinned on the harpist’s other suitor Robert Allen (a Westerns regular also in The Awful Truth). Then on the wedding day a suspicious dog chases Karloff straight into the Black Room where he falls on his late brother’s sword.
Probably better than the other Karloff movie I watched this month. Playing identical twins is always a good actor showcase, and I thought the movie would avoid throwing both Karloffs together, but right after they meet they’re in an action scene together, neat. Neill was a directing machine, cranking out 100+ movies until he worked himself to death.
Harpist and dad: