Principio et finem similia-I end as I began.

In the 18th century twins are born to the de Berghman family. The twins, Anton and Gregor are said to be cause for concern. According to an old prophecy it is stated that the younger brother (Anton) shall kill the elder brother (Gregor) in the Black Room of the castle. This concerns the family to the extent that the baron orders the Black Room sealed.

Decades have past and Gregor (Boris Karloff), the older brother, has inherited the title. Baron Gregor is a depraved and ruthless tyrant. He thinks nothing of murder and many of the wives of local peasants have disappeared. His brother, Anton (also played by Karloff) has a paralyzed right arm. He has spent the last 10 years traveling. At the request of Gregor he has returned to the castle. Anton is the opposite of his brother Gregor and everyone, including servants love him.

When a castle servant Mashka (Katherine DeMille) disappears a mob from the village swarms the castle. Gregor agrees to abdicate and sign over the baronetcy to his brother. Once the papers are signed Gregor murders Anton and takes his place. Gregor knows a secret entrance to the Black Room. He throws Anton’s body into a pit in the Black Room. He then cons Colonel Paul Hassel into pledging his daughter Thea (Marian Marsh) to him. He kills the Colonel and pins it on Thea’s love interest Lt. Lussan (Robert Allen). The Lieutenant is sentenced to death.

Now there is nothing in Gregor’s way. Posing as Anton he still has his barony, his money and is in position to marry the beautiful Thea. There is nothing in his way except Anton’s mastiff. Only the dog knows his master is dead.

“The Black Room” was released in 1935 and was directed by Roy William Neill. It is a little different than Karloff’s usual mad scientist roles. This time around he is playing twins. He’s still mad, well one of him is. The movie itself is pretty average. It’s fairly short, only 68 minutes. And decently paced. A little more of a gothic melodrama than a horror movie.

What makes it stand out is Karloff. Of course you have the camera tricks when dealing with one person who is playing two people and that part is done fine. The part that really stands out is Karloff’s performance with two separate and polar opposite characters. It’s even apparent when seeing Gregor try to imitate Anton. There are subtle deviations between Karloff being Anton and Gregor playing Anton. The way Gregor’s eyes sometimes betray who he is. Even the way Gregor holds his right arm is slightly different than the way Anton actually does. It’s the differences between the two types of characters and the subtle nuances of Gregor’s impersonation that shows you the acting ability of Karloff. And all without monster make-up. It may be a “B” film but Karloff is an A+