Monday, April 04, 2016



Samuel Kimber is a cranky invalid who lives in an isolated country house known as Barren Tor. He's probably cranky for a number of reasons, but currently, he's upset because his stepdaughter Cynthia is coming of age and wants to marry her boyfriend Peter, a struggling writer; if she does, Samuel will lose a great deal of money that has been coming his way for being her guardian. Peter plans to spirit her away but that night, Samuel asks to have a private talk with him, during which Samuel manages to hypnotize Peter with the aid of a light reflecting off of Samuel's faceted ring. We don’t see what happens next, but in the morning Cynthia has vanished. Her friend Miss Frayle, secretary to aloof psychiatrist Dr. Morelle, traipses off to Barren Tor to investigate. She poses as a new maid and buddies up to Bensall, a servant who seems a little touched in the head—he constantly walks a non-existent dog. The two go sneaking around and find Cynthia's earring and a pile of ashes they assume was Cynthia, but Bensall is shot dead by a figure in the shadows. Frayle locks herself in her room and calls Dr. Morelle who shows up the next morning posing as the writer of a book on old country homes. Can the two get to the bottom of the case before one of them winds up the next victim?

Dr. Morelle was the lead character in a British radio series as well as a handful of novels. Based on the interpretation offered here by Valentine Dyall, he was sort of a Sherlock Holmes type to Miss Frayle's (Julia Lang) Watson. But in this movie, Morelle is more like a supporting player, even though he is the one who puts together all the clues. The basic plot is interesting and the actors all do what they can—I especially liked Dyall and Lang (pictured above), and Peter Drury as Peter, and Hugh Griffith, who went on to a long career and a Supporting Actor Oscar for BEN-HUR, is fine as poor Bensall—but the low-budget production is fairly shabby in terms of sets, and there are plotholes galore in the narrative. Occasionally, a shadowy scene is shot nicely, but there's nothing special about the look of the film. Not unwatchable, not terribly memorable, but I might be interested in reading a Dr. Morelle adventure someday. [YouTube]

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