Bil’s rating (out of 5): B.
USA, 1945. Paramount Pictures. Screenplay by Hagar Wilde, Raymond Chandler, adaptation by Hagar Wilde, Ken Englund, based on the novel by Ethel Lina White. Cinematography by John F. Seitz. Produced by John Houseman. Music by Ernst Toch. Production Design by Hans Dreier, A. Earl Hedrick. Costume Design by Dorothy O’Hara. Film Editing by Doane Harrison. Academy Awards 1945.
Lewis Allen tries to recreate the success of The Uninvited, this time moving Gail Russell into the lead role, but while she does a great job with the part there’s nothing that can be done about the inferior script. She comes to work in Joel McCrea‘s mansion as governess to his young son, at first given the cold shoulder by her charge until he comes to love her as much as he did his previous instructor. Russell begins to suspect that the boy is communicating with his former governess and is being led into something nefarious, while their home is marked the mystery of the property next to them, which has been uninhabited for a long time, and the headlines of a madman killing women in a dark alley are doing nothing to make the neighbourhood welcoming. Most of the characters who are introduced feel like red herrings as soon as they arrive, such as Isobel Elsom‘s fetching performance as the empty house’s former inhabitant, as none of them ever contribute to a cohesive narrative that Russell’s character ever starts to put together. As an actress, she can carry the film quite easily, but as a character she goes around thoroughly confused about what’s happening and the audience, being treated to elements of Rebecca, James’s Turn of the Screw and Jane Eyre being thrown into a blender and sprayed on the canvas, are in the same fog until the dull and anticlimactic ending.