This 1934 Boris Karloff-Bela Lugosi vehicle became a classic of Hollywood expressionism under the direction of Edgar G. Ulmer, a German emigre who once worked as an assistant to F.W. Murnau. Ulmer never again had the budgetary resources granted him by Universal (at the time, Karloff and Lugosi were two of the studio's biggest stars), and he makes the most of them. The sets, designed mostly by Ulmer himself, combine Bauhaus stylings with the bottomless shadows of the German silents, providing a studiously unreal background for a bizarre power struggle between the two stars. Karloff, a tremendously underrated film actor, has one of his best, most extravagant roles; Lugosi has one of his last good ones. With David Manners and Jacqueline Wells cringing in the corners.
By Dave Kehr