1 June 2011 | kevinolzak
Seen on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater in 1973
1952's "The Black Castle" was a followup to the prior season's "The Strange Door," Universal Gothics preceding the studio's switch to science fiction with 1953's "It Came from Outer Space." The opening credits roll in front of the miniature castle seen in "The Ghost of Frankenstein," with familiar musical cues from "The Wolf Man," "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man," "House of Frankenstein," even "Son of Frankenstein." Charles Laughton enjoyed a field day in "The Strange Door," which focused on the villains, while this slightly lesser feature (both scripted by Jerry Sackheim) centers on the heroic Englishman Sir Ronald Burton (Richard Greene), who journeys to The Black Forest and the domain of Count Karl Von Bruno (Stephen McNally), a former adversary in Africa, who had set himself up as a god with the local natives, only to be driven out after encountering Sir Ronald's forces, losing his right eye in the process. Burton is certain that two trusted allies were victims of the sadistic Von Bruno, whose lovely Countess (Paula Corday, "The Body Snatcher") takes a shine to the newcomer (soon to play Robin Hood on British television), who demonstrates his swordsmanship in a brief encounter with Michael Pate and John Hoyt, as henchmen of the Count. This castle comes with a dungeon, a black leopard, a pit full of alligators, and a coffin containing the skeleton of the wicked Count's first wife. Lon Chaney gets a stirring entrance but little screen time as Gargon, the Count's hulking mute caretaker, whose tongue was ripped out by the angry natives, while Boris Karloff also gets shortchanged in the small role of Dr. Meissen, physician to the Count but devoted to the Countess. He at least sets up the climax, the lovers taking a page out of Shakespeare by swallowing a potion that simulates death, delighting the villains who congratulate the doctor for allowing such a fitting demise for their enemies (buried alive). Together for the second time (after 1944's "House of Frankenstein"), Karloff and Chaney would be reunited once more, in the ROUTE 66 episode "Lizard's Leg and Owlet's Wing." Stephen McNally has fewer opportunities to shine than Charles Laughton, but rises to the occasion once faced with Burton's true identity. Michael Pate enjoys more screen time than he had in "The Strange Door," and would work with John Hoyt again in 1959's "Curse of the Undead." Like most of Universal's popular 50s catalog, this film aired on Pittsburgh's Chiller Theater four times- Dec 8 1973 (following 1960's "Psycho"), December 21 1974 (preceding 1956's "The Mole People"), June 21 1975 (preceding 1955's "Tarantula"), and March 12 1977 (following 1958's "Monster on the Campus").