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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Friday, October 6, 2023

Night of Terror (1933)

Time to dust off another oldie but maybe goodie? The movie opens with a couple in a convertible starring at the moon and stars. A creepy looking man sneaks up on them and then the camera pulls away as we hear a scream. What happened? Well, the newspaper headlines tell us that the Maniac, the name of the killer, has murdered another couple. Yeah, it didn’t end well for them at all. These is the latest murders in a spree that has been going on for a while.

We then see the Maniac sneak into an estate where the Rinehart family lives. Someone kills the patriarch, we are supposed to believe it was the Maniac, and later after the will is read we find out that the family is to spilt the inheritance evenly. The surviving members anyway… This leads to more death as there are less Rineharts left to split the cash as bodies keep popping up. There are also subplots about a friend of the family who is doing a weird experiment to prove you can live without breathing as well as a nosy reporter who is pursuing the beautiful young woman of the family, Mary. Mary is engaged to the doctor. All is revealed before the credits roll and that includes a couple fun twists.

Just a note before going any further. I enjoyed this movie despites some of the flaws I’ll mention below. I tried to write this review spoiler free, but it just didn’t work. I’m going to recommend checking it out so if you don’t want things ruined for you stop here. The movie is on YouTube as of the writing of this review so check it out.

Night of Terror is solid but not great. The story starts off with a bang but tapers off quickly with the family being introduced and time passing after the first murder in the house. I think moving time ahead a week breaks up the momentum created by the creepy opening. It does pick up towards the end but the pacing issues kick this down from being a great example of an Old Dark House style flick to being an okay one. For those unfamiliar with what I’m speaking about there was a whole subgenre of horror/mystery that involved murders, secret passages, killers hiding in the dark, and a beautiful heroine. The movie has all of these and plenty of it. The name comes from the first movie to do this but has it’s origins in some very popular and creepy stage plays from the twenties.

The cast is solid with the best performance coming from a very familiar face, Bela Lugosi, who plays the manservant and vaguely mystical Degar. He is used very well as a red herring. I mean of course Dracula guy had to be the killer, right? Nope. Though it a fun twist he does get to play the Maniac under piles of makeup. Another actor is credited with the role, but it is clearly Lugosi creeping around in the dark. I suppose he did get to be the killer though again maybe not. In another fun twist the Maniac is killing folks but here is used as cover for one of the family members who is knocking off the others to make his share of the inheritance even higher. There is a lot going on with Night of Terror and I’m all about it.

I should mention the other criticism I have about the movie is that we get zero chance of figuring out who the killer is. This leans more into the horror and less into the mystery, so I don’t think that is a dealbreaker for me. But it does need to be acknowledged. I almost included it in the mystery marathon but decided against it.

You already know that I’m recommending this one and that you can find it on YouTube. This is one of those public domain movies that are well worth spending an hour on. Lugosi was way more than just Dracula and this is one of the best examples of that fact. This is best watched in the dark without distractions (put the damn phone down!).


© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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