Directed by F.W. Murnau [Other horror films: Satanas (1920), Der Bucklige und die Tänzerin (1920), Der Januskopf (1920), Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (1922), Faust: Eine deutsche Volkssage (1926)]
Directed by F.W. Murnau (who later directed both Nosferatu and Faust), Schloß Vogelöd (or The Haunted Castle) does a pretty good job at creating an interesting early mystery/horror hybrid, held back by it’s length and related, some of the scenes.
This compelling story, revolving around possible lies about a three-year old murder, has a lot of mystery and secrets, with a twist or two, throughout. It has a moderately dark atmosphere, and is overall a fun movie.
It does run on a bit longer than it really needs to, though. At an hour and 22 minutes, I can’t help but think that things dragged a bit through some of the acts (this movie is divided into five acts), especially the second and fourth. There’s a dream sequence that, while not overly lengthy, feels a bit out of place, and I could have done without that.
Arnold Korff (who played the host) and Paul Hartmann (Oetsch, who was accused of killing his brother) both do really well in their roles, and while no one in this movie does a bad job (aside from maybe Julius Falkenstein, and that may have just been because his character was more comedic relief than anything else), Korff and Hartmann stand out the most.
To many, if not most, The Haunted Castle would be a minor German movie, a silent mystery, of little interest. Personally, I think the story is very solid, and while many may not, I’ve seen this movie twice and still consider it a horror flick, albeit one very borderline. Regardless, though, if you like silent movies, or are willing to give one a shot, aside from the fact that this runs a bit long (though I would recommend the 1 hour and 22 minute version over the 55 minute, more common, cut), I think you’d enjoy this one.