Secret of the Blue Room

07/18/2022 14:05

Film: Secret of the Blue Room (Geheimnis des blauen Zimmers)

Year: 1932

Director: Erich Engels

Writers: Arnold Lipp and Erich Philippi

Starring: Theodor Loos, Else Elster and Hans Adalbert Schlettow



This is an interesting movie. I found it when going through Letterboxd for horror from 1932. I thought that this was streaming on YouTube but noticed the year and the cast was different. It turns out this was remade in 1933 by Universal. Luckily, I found a copy on eBay of this original German film.

Synopsis: unsolved murders in a locked room years before are rehashed when more tragedy strikes in the same place.

We start this movie in the castle belonging to Robert von Hellberg (Theodor Loos). He lives there with his daughter Irene (Else Elster). They are having a birthday party for her. In attendance are Axel Brinck (Hans Adalbert Schlettow) who is a marine officer. There is also Frank Fárber (Wolfgang Staudte) and Thomas Brandt (Peter Wolff). From what I’m gathering, they all want to marry Irene. Thomas is the most forward and Irene laughs it off.

To wind down the night, Robert is asked to tell the story of the blue room. This is a room upstairs and always locked. It turns out that three people died there. The first was the sister to Robert who was thought to have fallen out of the window and into the moat. Her body was never found. The next night, Robert’s best friend stayed in the room and was shot. The night after that had a detective staying there to solve what happened was also killed. All the deaths were thought to happen at 1 AM.

Tommy sees an opportunity here. He suggests that the three suitors stay in the room consecutive nights. He volunteers to take this first one. The rules that are set up is that no one can bother them and they must stay the whole night. The next morning though, Tommy is gone. A search is conducted, but he’s nowhere to be found. To solve what happened, Frank stays there the next night. Minutes after one in the morning, he’s shot and killed.

There are a list of potential suspects. There is Max (Reinhold Bernt) who is the chauffeur. We also have a house cleaner and even Robert. The police are called to solve what is happening as well. They are Schuster (Oskar Sima) and Krüger (Gerhard Dammann). What is baffling everyone is that the room is locked each night, but it appears that someone is coming and going despite that. They need to solve the mystery of the blue room before it is too late.

That should be enough to give you a basic idea of the story and introduce our cast. This is another interesting murder mystery from 1932. What is also intriguing to me is that this is another horror movie from Germany that was released this year. I’ve listed above that Erich Philippi is a writer on this. He is credited with the story, so I don’t know if that means this is based on a short story ahead of it being made into this. Regardless, I wanted to toss that out before getting deeper into the movie itself.

We have a basic set up that we see to this day. The lore is set up through the story told by Robert. It comes off as a ghost story. There is a bit of numerology here as the deaths in the room come in threes. The mystery is also unsolved so it is a good set up for me. Building from this, I like that Thomas sees his chance to prove how tough he is by staying in the room first. It is also his idea for this competition. I like that it plays out like a curse as the deaths that happen in there line up with the ones in the past. This is solid writing to me.

With that introduced, this is an early murder mystery as I said. There is Schuster and Krüger trying to solve this case. They interrogate Robert, Paul (Paul Henckels), Betty (Betty Bird), Max along with Irene and Axel. I like that they’re doing good police work to figure this out. Everyone is a suspect. There is also the mystery of how whoever is guilty is getting in and out of the room with it locked. I did guess this, especially since it’s a castle. This movie is using a bit of the ‘old dark house’ subgenre that I love. I’ll admit, I should have guessed who the killer was and I didn’t. I’ll commend the movie, but the ending didn’t necessarily shock me either. This movie does play it straight that there could be a sensible explanation or there could be a supernatural angle as well.

There’s not much more I can say with the story so I’ll go over to the acting. I thought it was solid across the board. Loos works as the father here. He feels like someone who is respected, but also fits as one of the suspects. Elster is fine. She isn’t given a lot, but she does plead with all the men to not stay in that room. She doesn’t want to tempt fate which works. Schlettow and Staudte were both solid along with Wolff in his limited role. The rest of the cast rounded this out for what was needed as well.

Finally for the filmmaking. I thought that the cinematography was good. It doesn’t stand out but fits the era. I did want to commend the setting. I like this being set in a castle that looks modern enough while still having a moat and a bit of the ‘old dark house’ to it. We don’t get a lot in the way of the effects, but it also doesn’t need them. It isn’t that type of movie. Other than that, the soundtrack fit for what was needed. They did do good things with the sound design though. Hearing things off screen to draw characters like music or gunshots works.

In conclusion, this movie was enjoyable. It might not be for people that watch murder mysteries, as you will see troupes that are known now. Regardless, I think that for when this came out it was still fresh. I like the setup of this ‘ghost’ story and how the events are mimicked. It feels like life imitating art. The acting is good to bring the characters to life. I’d say this is also a well-made film overall. It isn’t going to blow you away, but there’s a reason that Universal remade this immediately for an American audience. This is an above average movie for me overall.


My Rating: 7 out of 10