Thursday, October 13, 2016


A composer of film music tells a director the story of where he got his inspiration for his current piece. There's a house in Dorset that the locals call the House of Strange Music; they say that a ghostly melody can be heard that conjures up visions of the past residents, a dysfunctional family named Merryman. Young Francis (Laurence Harvey), a composer and pianist, resents the fact that his older brother John (Alexander Archdale), a violinist, has control of the family estate until his death. Both live in the house along with Francis's wife Elaine; a third brother, the passive Noel who is engaged to Lucy; and the feisty housekeeper Tessa. Francis has been racking up gambling debts and signing John's name to the IOUs, and now John, who is plagued with a weak heart, has had enough and takes steps to disassociate himself from Francis. But Francis is one step ahead and during an angry confrontation, he goads John into a heart attack. John dies and Francis seems to get what he wanted—until strange sounds and visions make the family believe that John's ghost may be haunting the house.

This little-known film is a gem of a Gothic thriller; it has some of the shortcomings of a low-budget B-film—some plot holes, mostly so-so acting—but it also has the young Laurence Harvey (pictured) in his first film role and, though I'm not particularly a fan of his, he is very good here, carrying the movie and standing head and shoulders above the rest of the cast. The other actors are fair to middling—the strongest being John Teed as Noel and Grace Arnold as Tessa—and it might have been fun to see Harvey enact his role with stronger actors opposite him. But as it is, Harvey has a bit of an Anthony Perkins-Psycho vibe, especially early on. He has a tendency to smirk which some critics think is a fault, but I think it's perfectly in tune with his character. At heart, this is a psychological thriller with a ghost story overlay and a nicely ambiguous ending. The frame story, which features George Melachrino playing himself as a film music composer, is an awkward fit with the rest of the story, but it is unusual. Recommended. [TCM]

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