|The Secret of the Blue Room|
|Directed by||Kurt Neumann|
|Screenplay by||William Hurlbut|
|Story by||Erich Philippi|
|Based on||Secret of the Blue Room|
|Edited by||Philip Cahn|
|Music by||Heinz Letton|
|Distributed by||Universal Pictures|
The Secret of the Blue Room is a 1933 American pre-Code mystery film, thriller, horror, directed by Kurt Neumann and starring Lionel Atwill, Gloria Stuart, Paul Lukas and Edward Arnold. The film is about a group of wealthy people who stay at a European mansion. The mansion features a "blue room" which is said to be cursed as everyone who stays there dies shortly after. Three people suggest a wager that each can survive a night in the blue room, after the first of them spends a night there, a scream is heard that night which wakes the others to realize that the man has vanished. Within the next few months, more murders occur in the blue room, which leads to Robert von Helldorf (Lionel Atwill) to summon the authorities.
The Secret of the Blue Room is based on the German film Secret of the Blue Room, and was Universal Studios least expensive feature made that year. Universal remade the film two mores times as The Missing Guest and as Murder in the Blue Room.
A woman's suitor challenges his two rivals to each spend a night in a room in which several murders occurred years before at 1 a.m. The suitor, Tommy, sleeps there on the first night but disappears at 1 a.m. Then the second man sleeps there on the second night. At 12:30 a.m, he starts playing the piano, but is shot half an hour later.
As these events occur, a police investigation leads to several answers to several mysteries. On the fifth night, the third man sleeps in the Blue Room. However, he places a dummy in an armchair and conceals himself behind a coat. At 1 a.m, a revolver pokes round the door and fires at the dummy. The man and several police officers jump out of their hiding places. After a furious gunfight, the villain is apprehended and it turns out to be none other than Tommy, the first suitor, who had ostensibly disappeared.
- Lionel Atwill as Robert von Helldorf
- Gloria Stuart as Irene von Helldorf
- Paul Lukas as Captain Walter Brink
- Edward Arnold as Commissioner Forster
- Onslow Stevens as Frank Faber
- William Janney as Tommy Brandt
- Robert Barrat as Paul
- Muriel Kirkland as Betty
- Russell Hopton as Max
- Elizabeth Patterson as Mary
In their book on Universal Horror films, Tom Weaver and Michael Brunas and John Brunas described The Secret of the Blue Room as an "engaging example of the early "spooky house" mystery" and that it "had all the recognizable elements of the classic Universal horror films" but "for all the atmosphere the picture unmistakably remains a whodunit at heart."
The Secret of the Blue Room was made for 69,000 dollars and was the cheapest production Universal Studios made that year. The film was a remake of the 1932 German mystery film Secret of the Blue Room. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lillian Bond was cast in this film, but was replaced by Muriel Kirkland.
The Secret of the Blue Room was distributed in the United States on July 20, 1933. The film was remade twice by Universal: first as The Missing Guest and later as Murder in the Blue Room. The film was released on DVD on October 16, 2014 by the Universal Vault Series.
From contemporary reviews, critics commented on the narrative of the film with Richard Watts Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune found that despite being a bit too formulaic, it was "better than a number of previous efforts of its school". Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times compares the film to The Old Dark House, stating that the film "lopes along in quite an interesting fashion until it comes to the denouement, which is by no means as satisfactory as might be anticipated." Wanda Hale of The New York Daily News stated that the story was "too unreasonable for words". Contemporary critics also commented on the cast with Hale stating the film contained "a grand cast" and Watts praising Gloria Stuart and describing Lionel Atwill as "not bad". A review in The Film Weekly also noted the acting, specifically Paul Lukas, Stuart and Atill were "worthy of a stronger and less threadbare story."
From retrospective reviews, Tom Weaver and Michael Brunas and John Brunas commented in their book Universal Horror that "most of the early Universal mysteries that masquerade as horror films are fairly dismal" but declared this film as "a minor gem" and "probably one of the best of Universal's non-horror horror film" Hans J. Wollstein of AllMovie gave the film a three star rating, noting that the film made "good utilization of standing sets, including the mansion from James Whale's far superior The Old Dark House (1932), adds production values not matched by its Poverty Row competitors, of which there were many."
- Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 72.
- "Secret of the Blue Room". American Film Institute. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
- Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 73.
- Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 75.
- Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 76.
- Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 77.
- "Secrets of the Blue Room". AllMovie. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
- Weaver, Brunas & Brunas 2007, p. 78.
- Weaver, Tom; Brunas, Michael; Brunas, John (2007) . Universal Horrors (2 ed.). McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-2974-5.
- Wollstein, Hans J. "Secrets of the Blue Room". AllMovie. Retrieved April 1, 2020.
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