A nobleman is murdered. The locals blame it on vampires. But appearances can be deceiving. Director Tod Browning teams up again with Bela Lugosi for their second vampire film; the first being the iconic Dracula (1931). This time out Lugosi is teamed up with Carroll Borland as Luna. The two are simply movie magic. Although they hardly speak a word, their magnetic presence sets the mood for every scene they're in. Borland is particularly wonderful as Luna. Her deep expressive eyes, fantastic gown and physical presence would provide the inspiration for other "vampettes" to follow such as Vampira, Morticia Addams and Elvira. Unfortunately she and Lugosi have far too little screen time in this film. I love every scene they're in and it left me wanting more.
The cast also includes screen legend Lionel Barrymore [It's a Wonderful Life, The Devil Doll ] as the professor and Lionel Atwill [Mystery of the Wax Museum, The Ghost of Frankenstein] as inspector Neumann. Both do a nice job with their roles. The weakest link is Elizabeth Allan as Irena. While her performance is typical for the 1930's, her acting style feels dated for modern audiences. It's a bit too melodramatic for my taste.
Tod Browning does a beautiful job directing this film. He knows how to compose a scene and move the story along at a nice pace. The scenes that take place in the dilapidated castle are particularly well done. The only thing that kept me from giving this film an excellent rating is the ending which I thought was groan-worthy as well as the already mentioned too brief screen time of Lugosi and Borland. Still it's a really wonderful film that is not to be missed.
RATING: Very Good.
For more info check out the film's entry in IMDB.