Don’t be fooled by the title of this tediously slow-crawling mystery from Weimar Germany—there’s almost no expressionistic phantasmagoria here. Various lords and barons wait out a rainstorm at an isolated manor house, gossiping in musty parlors about the scandalous appearance of a brooding count (Lothar Mehnert) who may have murdered his brother. Schadenfreude intensifies with the arrival of his voluptuous sister-in-law, Baroness Safferstätt (Olga Tschechowa), who fears he may kill again. The parlor-room intrigues are mostly played out in wide shots of a dozen cigar-smoking men frustrated by the storm that’s interfering with hunting season, punctuated by the count furrowing his thickly painted eyebrows or the melancholy baroness perched at her bedside gazing intently at the wall trimmings. Prolonged flashbacks of sunny days gone by don’t feel like a ray of sunshine cutting through the gloom so much as obligatory filler. Offering none of the sexual thrill or plague horror of Nosferatu, or the crazed love-worship of Sunrise, or the moral questioning of Faust, this inferior Murnau tone poem merely drifts interminably along on gothic autopilot.
Though the film is painfully mediocre, the transfer is painstakingly gorgeous, with only the occasional print scratch and sign of wear. The full orchestration audio track soars.
Excerpts from Rudolf Stratz's novel, on which this film was based, are incorporated into a detailed essay comparing the changes from text to screen. Also included is a handful of set design paintings, which apparently went unused in the finished picture but match the tone of The Haunted Castle.
The Haunted Castle makes the viewer wait in a state of anticipation for something to resonate on screen-and it feels positively endless.