Thursday, October 29, 2009


This is not exactly a masterpiece, but it is perhaps the best Gothic melodrama I’ve seen to date. 17-year-old Caroline’s father is sick and adds a codicil to his will stating that, in the event of his death, she will be taken care of by her Uncle Silas (Derrick De Marney). Dad thinks Silas is a fine man who has been misunderstood because of a shadowy murder accusation in his past. Sure enough, Dad dies and Caroline (Jean Simmons) goes to Silas’s large, dark, and dilapidated mansion. At first, her uncle seems pleasant and just a little nutty, but we soon find out that, with debtors threatening to take his property, he’s plotting to get his hands on his late brother’s fortune, and with only Caroline in his way, that means she’ll have to die. Based on a book by Sheridan Le Fanu, this is an archetypal full-blooded Victorian-era Gothic tale, complete with an old dark house, a villainous governess, a rogue of a son, a handsome stranger, a locked-up wing in the house, stormy nights, and a scary face at the window. Hitchcock’s REBECCA may be a richer movie, but this one is more fun, partly due to the detailed sets, the shadowy cinematography, the well-worn story, and good performances, primarily from De Marney and Katina Paxinou as the crazy, wicked governess. This film, also known as The Inheritance, is hard to come across, but it deserves to be better known, and though it’s not a horror movie, would be perfect atmospheric viewing for late October. [TCM]

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