While this is more of a mystery (and not very mysterious either) than a classical horror film, I couldn't resist putting this old Lugosi flick on last night, seeing as I'll be watching the Universal Dracula later today for the first time ever (!?) as part of a vampire-a-thon I'll be indulging in. There's not a huge amount I can really say about this one, so this will be very brief.
I'm still unclear on some of the details of the film's plot, but I'll attempt a quick synopsis anyway. In short, Lugosi plays Kessler, a man who is being compelled to kill, against his will, by his supposedly absent wife (and here's where I'm confused... I'm not sure whether she's meant to have died or merely left him for another man), who is actually being kept hidden away in the shed/garage (whatever it is) by the gardener, and wanders about the grounds of the house in the middle of the night. And whenever she locks eyes with Bela, she sends him into a homicidal trance, leading to the inevitable murder of a guest staying at the house. An innocent man ends up being executed for the crime, and following this, the guy's twin brother soon shows up at the house to investigate.
The film is somewhat forgettable in the grand scheme of things, but seeing as it's only a bit over an hour long, it never overstays its welcome. And if you like this sort of thing, I'd say it's worth checking out at least once, as it's still reasonably entertaining and has a few amusing parts and points of interest. First and foremost (and this has been pointed out in other reviews of the movie), I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the extremely welcome and frankly unexpected performance of Clarence Muse as Lugosi's butler, as he brings an element of gravitas to the role that I'd imagine was quite unusual for the time. As a side note, Muse's Wikipedia page mentions that he was also a "screenwriter, director, composer, and lawyer" and was apparently "the first African American to "star" in a film." I love all the scenes he shares with Lugosi, as they suggest a degree of warmth and mutual respect between the two characters. And speaking of Bela, he brings his characteristic combination of dignity and intensity to the role in bucket loads. In fact, while the supporting players are certainly fine (and I always get a laugh out of seeing the detective who seems to have his cigar permanently protruding from his lips, even during conversation), I think that without these two stately actors, this really would have been completely forgettable. Like I say, if you enjoy old black and white horror flicks and have an hour to spare, I'd say this is worth a watch.