Friday, July 05, 2002


Hawthorne's novel has been done a couple of times as a gloomy horror story, but it's really just an obliquely-told dysfunctional family melodrama and that's the treatment it gets here. The writers wisely flesh out the characters' backgrounds--what amounts to a briefly sketched "backstory" in the novel takes up the first half hour of the film. Vincent Price is trying to sell the family house to pay for debts run up by his dissolute brother, George Sanders, but when the father dies, Sanders manages to get Price accused of murder; he is tried and found guilty. 20 years later, Price gets his revenge, with some help from Dick Foran, a man he meets in prison who turns out to have a connection to the family. There's a curse thrown in for good measure, but surprisingly, it's not presented in as creepy a fashion as it is in the book, maybe because the studio was reluctant to show people bleeding from the mouth back then. Price and Sanders are both young and handsome, and have a lot of fun chewing the scenery, especially in the first part. I've seen the original house in Salem, and the movie house looks a lot like it, but the potential for gothic atmosphere is pretty much completely wasted. Still, worth catching especially for fans of Price and Sanders. Margaret Lindsay, Nan Gray, and Cecil Kellaway have supporting roles.

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