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Schloss Vogelöd (aka The Haunted Castle) [Masters of Cinema] [DVD] [1921]

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Actors: Arnold Korff, Lulu Kyser-Korff
  • Directors: F. W. Murnau
  • Format: PAL
  • Language: German
  • Region: Region 2 (This DVD may not be viewable outside Europe. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 4:3 - 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: PG
  • Studio: Eureka Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: 22 Aug. 2011
  • Run Time: 82 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0057O4Y4W
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 21,199 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Product Description

One of the earliest (and eeriest) works by the legendary filmmaker F. W. Murnau, Schloss Vogelöd: Die Enthüllung eines Geheimnisses [Castle Vogelöd: The Revelation of a Secret, often referred to as The Haunted Castle] provides a vital glimpse into the development of the uncanny-suffused expressionistic style that became Murnau's hallmark and legacy. A party of aristocrats assemble at a country manor for an autumn hunt. But a long-lingering question threatens once more to rear its head: who really murdered the Baroness's late husband? With a riveting nightmare sequence that foreshadows the nocturnal fantasias of both Nosferatu and Phantom, and a masquerade conceit that looks backward to Feuillade and forward to Murnau's own Die Finanzen des Großherzogs, this languorous mood piece represents the latent material that will figure into a master director's later breakthroughs. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present F. W. Murnau's Schloss Vogelöd, a long out-of-circulation early work by the legendary F. W. Murnau, director of such masterworks as Nosferatu and Sunrise . Released on DVD in the UK for the first time on 22 August 2011.

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Format: 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.
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Format: 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.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
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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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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