Carl Mayer

Regret, Guilt and Suspicion in The Haunted Castle


The Haunted Castle (1921) Poster



Schloß Vogelöd(Castle Vogeloed) or The Haunted Castle.

Directed by F.W. Murnau 1921

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The film has touches of Expressionism, but mostly feels like a subtle noir. The Haunted Castle (1921)


This film really does not fall under a moniker of Horror, which is somewhat misleading because of the mood conveyed in the posters and english title, it instead seems to fall into an area occupied by Murder Mysteries and even feels like a direct precursor to Film Noir without the sleek stylings.

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The Haunted Castle (1921)



The look of this film is not what I would refer to as overtly Expressionist, it’s very straight forward, with almost nothing underneath to be “expressed” by way of a specific expressionist vehicle or plot device. The sets are beautiful and extremely accurate, for the setting of the story. There are a few expressionist moments, they mostly are found in flashbacks or dream sequences. That being said the rest of the film seems based so much on reality, in a way which renders any emotion trying to be conveyed, directly on the surface of the film. I find the principle emotion of this film to not be sadness, despair or fear, but more in the realm of guilt, regret and shame.

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First Flashback, Natural approach to Expressionism, lighting used to convey positive feelings. The Haunted Castle (1921)


The shinning scenes for me proved to be in the first flashback, which actually had a nice expressionist touch via lighting conveying a positive and happy aspect, which came across in a very natural approach. The fifth act had most of the expressionist moments, which comes with the release of the films tension and climax of guilt. I will not spoil the ending, but I feel as if most will see it coming.

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Lighting used to set a positive mood. The Haunted Castle (1921)


The basic plot is a story of redemption, a group of men are gathered at Castle Vogelod for a hunting party. It is unfortunately raining, leaving the men to occupy themselves inside the walls of the castle. Soon an uninvited guest arrives “Count Otesch” he is immediately viewed as an outsider, rumors of his past start to occupy the conversations of everyone in the castle. He was arrested but not convicted of killing his brother “Count Peter Oetsch” adding to the unrest of  “Count Otesch’s” unforeseen arrival, is the arrival of his dead brothers newly remarried widow, the “Baroness Safferstatt” and her new husband “Baron Stafferstatt”. As soon as she is aware that “ Count Otesch” is present, she decides she would not be able to stay in the castle, until she is reminded that “Father Faramund of Rome” a relative of her former husband,is to arrive soon.

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Overcome with guilt The Baroness confesses a secret. The Haunted Castle (1921)


Once the Baroness is able to speak with “Father Faramund”, she is overcome with guilt and regret and makes a confession unto the Father. The Father returns to his room speaking with no one else, it is noticed the next day that “Father Faramund” has gone missing. We are left with spiraling accusations and suspense leading up to a very interesting conclusion which, I will leave incomplete, for you to watch yourself or read about if you cannot wait. A good film but not an overtly expressionist film.

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One of the few outdoors scenes which convey a lot of naturalistic Expressionism, with its use of lighting and clouds. The Haunted Castle (1921)


Video link working as of 02/03/2015:




Herr Tartüff (1925). Another feather in Friedrich Wilhelm’s ‘Alpine hat’

Herr Tartüff (1925) movie poste.r

Director: F.W. Murnau
Writers: Molière (play), Carl Mayer (manuscript)
Producer: Erich Pommer
Cinematography: Carl Freund
Score: Giuseppe Becce
Starring: Emil Jannings/Werner Krauss/ Hermann Picha/ Rosa Valetti/ André Mattoni/ Lil Dagover

Finally, I managed to find FW Murnau’s Herr Tartüff (1925) online with ENGLISH SUBS…on YouTube! Below is the link… and here’s what I thought:

Contrary to previous belief, Herr Tartüff isn’t as much a screen adaptation of the comedy stage-play Tartuffe by Molière, but rather a story about a young man who shows his wealthy and decrepit grandfather a film of the Tartuffe tale, to prove a point to the old man. The point the grandson’s trying to make and why he wants to make it, is something best found out for yourselves. There are no philosophical or intellectual statements being made here. Instead Murnau brings us an early example of the story-within-a-story format, which is both hilarious and beguiling. Interestingly, Herr Tartüff was also one of the first films to use the ‘breaking the fourth wall’ technique, where the protagonist talk directly to the audience through the camera, which the grandson does at the beginning of the film. As usual Jannings is sublime in the title-role, which sees him once again making full use of his incredible diversity and natural feel for humour. The more absurd, the more he’s in his element. Watch out for his Benny Hill impression!

Emil (Benny Hill) Jannings and Lil Dagover


The rest of the star-studded cast includes Lil Dagover (Destiny/Caligari/Phantom) as Elire; André Mattoni as Sein Enkel/the grandson; Werner Krauss, who’s appeared in almost everything I’ve seen recently (Dr Caligari/ The Joyless Street/ Waxworks/ Shattered/ and Secrets of the Soul, which I’ll be reviewing shortly) as Herr Orgon; and UFA’s resident grumpy old battle-axe, the ever reliable Rosa Valetti, as the housekeeper. I can’t think of a single UFA film made, which featured a café, where Rosa Valetti wasn’t behind the bar with her grimacing look of disapproval.

But the iconic names don’t stop there. As well as being directed by FW Murnau, Carl Mayer was the writer, Karl Freund the cinematographer, and it was produced by Erich Pommer, who was arguably the most important film-producer of the Weimar film industry. Another feather in Friedrich Wilhelm’s ‘Alpine hat’, the superbly filmed Herr Tartüff scores a well deserved 8/10.

UFA’s resident grumpy old battle-axe, the ever reliable Rosa Valetti, and Gramps

Lil Dagover and Emil Jannings, playing a hilarious game of cat and mouse in FW Murnau’s, Tartuffe (Herr Tartuff, original title), 1925.

Working video link as of 02/01/15: