Region 2 Greek import, plays in English without subtitles. 17-year-old Caroline (Jean Simmons) is nursing her dying father. He has enough faith in the reform of his reprobate brother, Silas (Derrick de Marney), suspected but in the clear of murder, to place her under his wing after his death. The hitherto na´ve heroine soon learns that scheming Uncle Silas is planning to kill her in order to get his hands on the family fortune, aided by the equally corrupt governess Madame de la Rougierre With debt collectors circling overhead, Silas, locks Caroline in a room and makes plans.... 1947
Maud Ruthyn, the teenage heroine of J.S.LeFanu's Gothic spellbinder, is an heiress living in rural seclusion with her widower-father Austin and a household of faithful retainers. Austin's an austere recluse who has embraced an obscure religious sect and becomes convinced that his infamous brother Silas, the black sheep of the family whom he supports with a stipend, has turned to redemption. After Austin's sudden death from a heart-seizure his will discloses that Silas has been appointed Maud's guardian till she comes of age and she must reside with him at Bartram-Haugh, his decaying mansion. Maud has never met her uncle but is intrigued and a little frightened by stories about his past. Her Cousin Monica and her father's friend Dr. Bryerly try to challenge the will particularly when it means that Silas will inherit her fortune should anything befall her in the interim but are unsuccessful. Maud embarks on an uneasy life at Bartram, finding Silas considerate but mysterious and unpredictable. She befriends and mentors his daughter Milly, a good-hearted but vulnerable girl whose education has been neglected, but is repulsed by his odious son Dudley. When she turns down Dudley's proposal of marriage the plot thickens and an elaborate strategy slides into place to effect her 'disappearance'. To this end her former governess Madame de la Rougierre, who was dismissed by Austin after caught rifling through his study in search of his will, comes back into her life. She escorts Maud on a journey of deception but herself falls victim to the gruesome death planned for her charge in the 'locked-room' at Bartram, scene of the darkest scandal in Silas' chequered history...
By the time they did the movie in 1947 Maud had become a name more suggesting of an elderly aunt (I had one myself) so it was changed to Caroline, more popular while still nicely in period, and Bonnie Jean Simmons was notably more in possession of herself than her literary counterpart who,though spirited, tended to weep and wail and carry on a bit. Jean's final close-up, after escape has been achieved and the dust has settled, is indeed most intriguing for its expression of knowing resolution that suggests she'll be no-one's patsy in the future. There's a vein of sardonic humour in the novel mainly from plain-speaking and un-PC Cousin Monica (sadly reduced in the film). The script was entrusted to Ben Travers, the venerable playwright of the Aldwych stage-farces and there's a distinct element of send-up in some of the staging and performances. As the aged Silas Derrick DeMarney bounces on in a white wig(he was only about 40 at the time) and just stops short of breaking into giggles. He has a fine comic moment when offering pious platitudes to his niece. After she leaves the room he goes to the huge family bible and blows a thick layer of dust off it. Katina Paxinou's the most terrifying fun as Madame, looking like an overdressed witch and being boisterous and malevolent when it suits while at the end of the day she's a lackey doing it for dosh. At one point she even makes overtures to Silas but he declines - it's strictly business - leaving her decidedly forlorn. The director was the rather mysterious Charles Frank, just about the only Belgian in showbusiness I can think of apart from Victor Francen and Hercule Poirot. He controls things superbly like a playful puppet-master with dreamlike montages and enthralling set-pieces like Madame's first entrance into Austin's house, a spectral figure tapping on the window during a rainstorm. But he pulls no punches when things get very nasty at the end. Cousin Milly, the book's most sympathetic character, is omitted from the film and the religious overlay so common in Victorian novels played down. Alan Rawsthorne's distinctive music with its feeling for danger and melancholy plays it straight and complements Robert Krasker's atmospheric images. In America the Maud/Dudley strand was cut out because of its incest connotation and there's a moment when Silas himself seems to have something on his mind. Just as well, perhaps, that he's really a 40-year-old in a white wig..Read more ›
A 1940's film ... typical? yes probably, and not a very good one ... well except for a Jean Simmons fan like me. Then suddenly it's a must have for your collection ... and yes she's very good, as always. The film comes in a Greek package (to celebrate the Greek actress in the film) but don't worry, it's the English version