Adapted from a best-selling novel by Sir Osbert Sitwell, the film stars the young James Mason in an unusual role as an older, retired tradesman who buys a haunted mansion, unaware of its formidable reputation.
An elderly couple move into an old, supposedly haunted abandoned house. A young girl comes to live with the pair as a companion for the wife. However, soon the girl is possessed by the spirit of another girl, a wealthy woman who had once lived in the house but who had been murdered there.
-It's a little quaint by today's standards, but the writing is witty and the cinematography is excellent. More than that, it's an opportunity to see a 36 year old James Mason acting in a role where he ages 25 years. This was the one Gainsborough film he actually wanted to make, although he had hit the top of the charts with other Gainsborough Gothics such as The Wicked Lady and The Man in Grey. I was rather astonished at his ability to transform his extraordinary brooding good looks into those of a kindly, elderly gentleman with a twinkle in his eye. His gait, voice, and body movements so fitted the role of the elderly man, I believe he could have fooled me without all the makeup.
- I had always been interested in watching this well-regarded British ghost story but was still pretty much blown away by it, being generally deemed too low-key for complete success. The film (the U.K. equivalent to THE UNINVITED ) is notable for James Mason's playing of a character role much older than his 36 years; he's fine as always, but is matched by Barbara Mullen as his wife and the whole proves a nice showcase, too, for the young Dennis Price as a doctor. The latter falls for and eventually treats Margaret Lockwood, Mullen's ingιnue companion who, on the old couple's inexpensive acquisition of a fashionable but notorious country-house, becomes possessed by the spirit of the latest female occupant (she had been ill-treated by both masters and servants and would die separated from her lover, another medic). Directed by a former cinematographer (his debut and unquestionably best effort), the period atmosphere is exceedingly well deployed throughout thanks to Stephen Dade's probing camera-work and the elegant production design, particularly the mansion's interior. There are few genuine scares, yet the film generates some definite frissons along the way: Lockwood, a mediocre pianist at best, suddenly playing a piece faultlessly in front of guests; the girl's spontaneous quotation from a poem she readily admits to being unfamiliar with; and, especially, her close encounter with an unseen entity (woken up by the piano mysteriously playing at night, we hear its lid being violently shut when she enters the room, followed by the camera's swift panning suggesting something had gone past her and then hushed voices plotting murder in the hallway). Also worth mentioning in this regard, however, are the enigmatic 'orders' given to the old couple as well as the gardener (a surprising straight turn from comedian Will Hay's frequent sparring partner Moore Marriott) respectively requesting a certain doctor's presence and the unearthing of a locket (subsequently cleaned just as inexplicably). Eventually, the former lovers do get together one more time the girl obviously in Lockwood's form and the medic now reduced to an old man (played by none other than Ernest Thesiger, whose entrance here towards the end of the film is almost as impressive as the one in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN ) but, tellingly, the camera cuts away at this precise moment, as if we what they had to say was meant for their ears only!; following this, there is a twist involving Thesiger's character which I actually predicted, but it certainly adds to the poignancy of the reunion. All in all, a little gem of a film displaying plenty of brooding style but also surprising warmth (not a feeling one usually associates with ghost stories).
Osbert Sitwell (novel), Brock Williams
Margaret Lockwood ... Annette Allenby
James Mason ... Mr. Henry Smedhurst
Barbara Mullen ... Mrs. Emilie Smedhurst
Dennis Price ... Dr. Robert Selbie
Helen Haye ... Mrs. Florence Manning-Tutthorn
Michael Shepley ... Major Alistair Manning-Tutthorn
Dulcie Gray ... Sarah, the Maid
Moore Marriott ... George, the Gardener
O.B. Clarence ... Perkins
Helen Goss ... Rosie, the Barmaid
Edie Martin ... The Cook
Gus McNaughton ... Police Constable Hargreaves
Muriel George ... Nurse
John Turnbull ... Sir Roland Jervis
Ernest Thesiger ... Dr. Richard Marsham
Release Date:28 May 1945 (UK)
Filming Locations:Gainsborough Studios, Islington, London, England, UK
Sound Mix:Mono (British Acoustic)
Color:Black and White