Secret of the Blue Room

Original Title: Das Geheimnis des blauen Zimmers. Crime drama 1932; 69 min.; Director: Erich Engels; Cast: Else Elster, Theodor Loos, Oskar Sima, Peter Wolff, Hans Adalbert Schlettow, Paul Henckels, Betty Bird, Wolfgang Staudte, Reinhold Bernt, Bernhard Goetzke, Gerhard Dammann; Engels & Schmidt-Tobis-Klangfilm.

In the “blue room” of a mansion, three people died in a mysterious manner twenty years ago. Three suitors of the castle owner’s daughter each intend to spend the night in the same room: the first one disappears without a trace, the second one is shot, and the third one narrowly escapes this fate with the help of the police. The police eventually locates the first of the three, who had wanted to eliminate his rivals.

Castle Hellberg. Midnight. Glasses clink as Irene’s 21st birthday is celebrated. Three childhood friends of Irene are present: Axel Brink, the naval officer; Frank Färber, the journalist; and Thomas, Tommy, the youngest. They all love Irene, they all want to marry her. But Irene only loves Axel… She has never openly spoken to him about it, so all three believe they are equally favored, equally chosen.

Suddenly, the joyful birthday atmosphere turns serious. Someone has started talking about horror stories, and there must be a mysterious room somewhere in this house, right? Thomas suggests it, and the Count nods reluctantly. He reluctantly agrees to tell the story and shares the tale of the “Blue Salon” on the first floor, where three people died under inexplicable circumstances over six months, about twenty years ago. The eerie aura surrounding this room led Hellberg to never use it again. It has been locked for twenty years. Only Paul, the servant, has the key.

This sparks Tommy’s mischievous spirit. He challenges the other two to spend three consecutive nights in this mysterious room. The other two agree, despite the Count’s refusal and Irene’s attempts to dissuade her friends from their plan. Tommy insists; he wants to prove to Irene that he is brave, that he is a real man. Reluctantly, he spends the night in the “Blue Room”. An anxious night passes. A night in which the servant Paul has let a strange visitor into the house. The next morning, there is no response from the Blue Room when the servant knocks. They break open the door, but Tommy is gone! The mystery begins. Where can Tommy be? They decide against notifying the police, hoping that everything will still be resolved naturally.

While the others begin the search for Tommy, Irene passes by the Blue Room. She feels compelled to open the door. Shocked, she finds herself face to face with a stranger. Irene screams and faints. When she regains consciousness, Axel is bending over her, and she recounts her encounter with the mysterious man who attacked her, still trembling from the memory. However, there is no stranger to be found in the entire castle. They believe Irene is overexcited and shaken by the ordeal…

The second night arrives. Despite Irene’s pleas, Frank Färber insists on guarding the Blue Room. At half-past twelve, Frank enters the Blue Room. But this night, Irene doesn’t go to sleep. She sits in the hall with Axel, listening intently to the darkness. The sound of piano music emanates from the Blue Room, and Frank sings the song Irene sang on her birthday. Suddenly, a gunshot echoes from the Blue Room. Axel and Irene startle. Axel rushes down the corridor, tears open the door to the Blue Room, and finds Frank. Dead. Shot. Paralyzing terror grips them all. They lock the door. Axel calls the criminal police. But Inspector Schuster can only come tomorrow morning. Suddenly, the phone rings, and everyone jumps. They stare in horror at the small wall cabinet above the telephone. The glass in the cabinet displaying “Blue Room” has fallen. Someone is ringing in the room where the dead body lies. They rush to the Blue Room, and Axel opens the door… the mystery unravels. A cat is playing with the doorbell cord. But how did the cat get into the locked room? The darkness becomes increasingly impenetrable.

The next morning, Inspector Schuster arrives. He is a capable and resolute officer who is not impressed by ghosts at all, and he goes all out. All residents of the castle are summoned, and the interrogation begins. The maid reports that she saw a stranger leaving the Blue Room shortly before Frank Färber entered. After much hesitation, she finally confesses that Count von Hellberg was the man. When confronted, Hellberg refuses to testify. The maid also observed the servant Paul giving light signals with a flashlight towards the woods around midnight. Paul denies everything. Schuster manages to capture the stranger through a ruse. Now Count von Hellberg reveals everything: this man is his brother, the true father of Irene, who is not Hellberg’s daughter and should never have come face to face with the degenerate. But who is the culprit in the Blue Room?

The third night falls. The criminal police are on guard in the house. Irene cannot find peace. She senses that something is about to happen, she feels that Axel will fulfill his decision and stay in the Blue Room tonight. Axel tries to convince Schuster that the mysterious perpetrator has a specific plan, and he is convinced that the enigmatic entity will return in this or one of the following nights to complete their work. Schuster and his officers remain in Axel’s room, ready to rush to any suspicious noise. The night falls. It is ten minutes to one o’clock. It is one. Then, after a few seconds, the expected gunshot resounds! Schuster and his officers storm into the Blue Room. No one is there. Axel has also vanished from the room!!! The film will reveal how the mysterious murderer is apprehended and who ultimately turns out to be the enigmatic person.

-g.’s review in Film Kurier No. 294 (December 14, 1932)
Fans of thrilling crime films will thoroughly enjoy this work. Within a castle, there lies a cursed room where, twenty years ago, three people mysteriously met their deaths. Three young individuals seek to uncover the secret and willingly spend a night each in the room. The first vanishes without a trace, the second is discovered shot dead, and as for the third—no further details can be disclosed. Nevertheless, it can be said that the twist is surprising and relatively logical, setting it apart from many other crime films.

Author Erich Philippi adeptly employs the proven techniques of successful detective novels. He skillfully misdirects the audience, creates eerie interludes, and intertwines humor with the murder plot. Erich Engels’ direction complements the intentions of the screenplay, guiding the actors to speak and act mysteriously, effectively captivating the audience.

The film begins with the obligatory hit song, sung with a pleasant voice by the captivating Else Elster. The three audacious protagonists are portrayed by Wolfgang Staudte, exuding freshness, humor, and likability; Peter Wolf, once again effectively embodying determined boyishness; and Hans Adalbert von Schlettow, imparting his character with rugged masculinity. However, it would be advisable to reconsider some of his close-up shots in the beginning.

Theodor Loos once again showcases his poise and eloquence as an actor. Oskar Sima exaggerates the matter-of-fact sharpness of a police commissioner to the point of challenging impudence. This aspect should have been toned down.

Furthermore, the cast includes Paul Henckels, whose every glance conceals a mystery, as well as Betty Bird, Bernhard Goetzke, Reinhold Berat, Gerhard Dammann, and Else Wunsch.

From a technical standpoint, the film is impeccably crafted, exhibiting meticulous attention to detail. Hugo von Kaweczynski establishes himself with what is presumably his first solo work. Walter Reimann and Gustav A. Knauer tastefully design the sets, although they may have been somewhat excessive in their painting of the walls in the mysterious blue room.

Emil Specht handles the sound, Paul Ostermayr is responsible for editing, and Heinz Letton provides a serviceable score.

This Engels and Schmidt film garnered significant applause and is certain to captivate theater owners and attract an interested audience.