Saturday, January 10, 2009


Another British B-thriller with Tod Slaughter twirling his mustache and threatening to feed a man's entrails to the pigs. This one is a loose adaptation of Wilkie Collins's classic Gothic novel The Woman in White which was brought to the screen more faithfully (with Hollywood stars and a bigger budget) but with less rough flair in 1948. Here, Sir Percival Glyde, prospecting in Australia, gets word that he is to take over his family's estate in England; fellow prospector Slaughter, thinking Glyde is rich, murders him (driving a railroad spike through his head), goes to England and assumes his identity, only to discover that the estate is almost bankrupt. His only hope is to go through with a long-arranged marriage with the wealthy (and considerably younger) Laura. However, as she is in love with her tutor Paul, she is not happy with the arrangement--the brief wedding night scene is shot like a scene of torture from a Hammer horror movie--and she brings her sister Marion to live with her.

Meanwhile, the counterfeit Glyde has other problems piling up: 1) the saucy maid he's banging on the side is pregnant; 2) he discovers that Glyde had been secretly married and has a secret daughter, Anne, locked up in an asylum; 3) legally, he can’t get his hands on enough of Laura's money to satisfy his needs, and his lawyer tells him he'd be better off if his wife was dead. So, 1) when the maid wants him to do the right thing, he kills her, and gets to re-use his infamous line from MURDER IN THE RED BARN, "You shall be a bride--a bride of death!"; 2) when Anne's mother becomes a problem, she winds up dead as well; 3) when Glyde finds out that Anne, escaped from the asylum and haunting the property, is the spitting image of Laura, he kills her, claims his wife is dead, and sends Laura to the asylum. Luckily, Paul and Marion figure things out and come to Laura’s rescue. Though it only uses the names and bare bones of Collins's original plot, it's great near-campy B-movie fun. Slaughter goes delightfully over the top, leering and licking his lips whenever he can. No one else in the cast has a chance against him, though Hay Petrie has a bit of fun as the dastardly Dr. Fosco, who knows all of Glyde's secrets and keeps hoping for a big financial payoff instead of the promised loss of his intestines (which sadly does not happen, though Petrie's end is imaginative). Not for everyone's taste, but trashy fun if you're in the mood. The print from VCI's British Cinema: Classic B Film Collection Vol. 1 is in very good shape. [DVD]

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