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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind games at the schloss
Here's an astonishing fact; by the time Schloss Vogelöd was first shown in April 1921, Murnau had already directed eight feature films and a staggering six of them have a production date of 1920. Also, at this point Murnau and writer Mayer were still five films away from the innovations of the 'entfesselte kamera'; the unleashed camera of Der Letzte Mann and the...
Published on 15 Aug. 2011 by A. S. Potts

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars “Is there anyone left who isn’t frightened of my house?” You mean apart from the audience?
Schloss Vogelod aka The Haunted Castle is the kind of thoroughly mediocre melodrama that would be completely forgotten today if made by a lesser director. Not that F.W. Murnau elevates the material much, merely competently marshalling the hokey dramatics. The completely misleading English title doesn’t help: this isn’t a horror film in any sense of the word,...
Published 6 months ago by Trevor Willsmer


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57 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind games at the schloss, 15 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Schloss Vogelöd (aka The Haunted Castle) [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1921] (DVD)
Here's an astonishing fact; by the time Schloss Vogelöd was first shown in April 1921, Murnau had already directed eight feature films and a staggering six of them have a production date of 1920. Also, at this point Murnau and writer Mayer were still five films away from the innovations of the 'entfesselte kamera'; the unleashed camera of Der Letzte Mann and the elimination of the inter-titles.

So, what of Schloss Vogelöd? It's one of Murnau's earliest surviving films since most among the number mentioned above are lost. As a self confessed Murnau addict I initially found this one hard to get into but after several plays I'm now won over. The English language title, 'The Haunted Castle' suggests a supernatural tale, but this is in fact a complex moral drama, as one would expect, from the pen of the great Carl Mayer. The schloss or castle is actually a large, isolated country house that's hosting a hunting party. Here a deception is set in motion designed to expose the true facts [and thus vindicate a suspected man] of a murder that has taken place some three years before the action begins.

Murnau and Mayer develop a brooding, almost palpable atmosphere as the moral decay and psychological trauma at the core of the narrative is exposed. This intensity of feeling is masterfully expressed in an image of two motionless figures in an empty hall during a flash-back in which the murderer is first revealed. Yet, there's also comedy, always a moot point with Murnau films, with the antics of a scared house guest, and some below stairs business in the kitchen. The odd gothic moment is played for laughs, too, but it's a wonderful nightmare sequence which is notable for prefiguring a famous image from Murnau's next film, the rather better known Nosferatu.

The film is lavishly designed with a multiplicity of elaborate sets; not all convincing. But, any slight staginess is transcended by Murnau's wonderful eye for depth and the quality of the performances. There are several excellent shots where the foreground action is played off against some detail in the background. While throughout, Murnau constantly draws his characters towards the camera from the deepest background as if to overwhelm the viewer. We are also treated to several beautifully photographed landscape scenes and a stunning flash-back set against a real window. All in all, such cinematic flourishes hint at greatness to come. However, the repetitive insertion of an exterior shot of Schloss Vogelöd [a miniature] becomes tiresome because it exposes the shortcomings of the shot instead of underscoring the mood and isolation of the events as is its intention.

Edition.

As there are some remarks in the comments section as to whether or not I actually own this disc I have removed my admittedly rather hasty summary of the benefits of the MoC edition over the Kino one. Having waxed lyrical on the film itself I grew weary and knocked-off a clumsy list which has given the impression that I was reviewing the film but not the MoC disc - so I proffer the following instead.

This edition offers an almost flawless transfer of the film, as restored by FWMS, which is clean and sharp with no apparent loss of detail, although the tinting on the MoC edition is more saturated than on the Kino disc, which is from the same source. While the strength of the tinting is a matter of taste this edition has a superior image quality. Also, MoC present the film in 1:37:1 and not 1:33:1 as with the Kino, but I have not made a visual comparison to say what the benefits may be, but I assume the framing is more accurate. MoC use the original inter-titles which makes it instantly superior to my mind.

The MoC comes with good quality extras while the Kino has none. The Luciano Berriatua film made for FWMS, of which different parts appear on the various MoC Murnau releases, is informative but a little dull in delivery but worth having nonetheless. The beautifully produced booklet has a variety of articles and photos, some showing the original expressionistic publicity. This artwork had very little to do with the actual content of the film which is naturalistic in style.

MoC wins on all accounts. If you have the Kino edition like me, be assured, it's well worth investing in this superior MoC edition.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars “Is there anyone left who isn’t frightened of my house?” You mean apart from the audience?, 20 Jan. 2015
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Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Schloss Vogelöd (aka The Haunted Castle) [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1921] (DVD)
Schloss Vogelod aka The Haunted Castle is the kind of thoroughly mediocre melodrama that would be completely forgotten today if made by a lesser director. Not that F.W. Murnau elevates the material much, merely competently marshalling the hokey dramatics. The completely misleading English title doesn’t help: this isn’t a horror film in any sense of the word, despite attempts to spin a brief comic dream sequence involving two comic relief characters into a major selling point as a precursor of Murnau’s subsequent Nosferatu. Instead it’s a country house mystery with an obvious solution as a rained off hunting weekend at a country estate is shocked by the uninvited arrival of a Count (Lothar Mehnert) suspected of killing his brother the same weekend as the man’s widow (Olga Chehkova) comes to visit. And when the dour priest she starts confessing to disappears, all the guests suspect he’s up to his old tricks again…

Based on a serialised novel that was still running during the two-and-a-half week shoot because producer Erich Pommer wanted to combine his publishing and film production arms, it feels more like a early talkie than a silent film despite Murnau trying to convey more with cryptic looks and the odd gesture than with intertitles. The attempts to build up dramatic tension and social discomfort around the dour unwelcome guest’s presence (“I only hunt in rain and gale”) often take second place to comic relief from Julius Falkenstein’s nervous guest, with characterisation surprisingly thin. Halfway through the picture you’re little wiser as to who most of these characters are and you’re hardly champing at the bit for the twist ending. Mehnert’s fairly effective at least half of the time while Chekhova doesn’t have much of a bosom but works overtime heaving it in her dramatic scenes. There are some good elemental shots of the bad weather, as well as a strikingly obvious model of the very unthreatening looking house, but the only moment that really sticks out is Chekhova grabbing at the arm of her chair when her godbothering husband drives her to thoughts of evil just to inject some excitement into their stultified marriage. But this is thin soup, and what you get out of it depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re interested in tracing Murnau’s development as a director in one of his earliest surviving films you’ll probably be more satisfied than if you’re looking for a good story well told.

Unfortunately the DVD transfer has niggling problems, coming from the days before Masters of Cinema swore off DNR and edge enhancement, with some curious loss of focus on faces in motion in places. Unlike Kino’s US DVD the intertitles are in the original German (though some are recreated in a similar style rather than original intertitles) and there is an decent half-hour German documentary on the DVD covering Murnau’s early films that coyly refers to his male lover Walter Spies as his ‘friend.’
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5.0 out of 5 stars After a Danish company failed to deliver a Super 8 copy to my father over thirty years ago ..., 20 Jun. 2015
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This review is from: Schloss Vogelöd (aka The Haunted Castle) [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1921] (DVD)
After a Danish company failed to deliver a Super 8 copy to my father over thirty years ago he was excited to hear that a British company has released a DVD as no German label seems to be interested in the less well known films by Murnau. The story the film is based on isn't high literature. There are some nice twists but nothing groundbreaking. I wouldn't call it an unknown classic like the great Lang film Destiny/Der müde Tod but it's still solid and entertaining. The transfer is superb and doesn't leave a lot to desire. All in all a great release!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a wonderful copy, 20 Sept. 2013
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This review is from: Schloss Vogelöd (aka The Haunted Castle) [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1921] (DVD)
One of the greatest Murnau's masterpieces is now on the domestic screen. It's the the best way to know and to admire the genius of Murnau in one of his magnificent early works.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars, 8 Mar. 2015
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This review is from: Schloss Vogelöd (aka The Haunted Castle) [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1921] (DVD)
Fine
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