October Moth (1960)

UK / 53 minutes / bw / Independent Artists, Rank Dir & Scr: John Kruse Pr: Julian Wintle, Leslie Parkyn Cine: Michael Reed Cast: Lee Patterson, Lana Morris, Peter Dyneley, Robert Crawdon, Sheila Raynor.

Finlay (Lee Patterson) starts an accidental blaze.

On a lonely windswept farm somewhere on the Yorkshire moors, mentally unstable and potentially violent Finlay (Patterson) is out one night looking for moths when he accidentally topples his lantern, setting off a minor conflagration. Startled by the flames and by the figure of Finlay, a motorist (Raynor) swerves off the road and down a steep embankment. Finlay brings the unconscious woman home to the farmhouse, waking his (sane) sister Molly (Morris); he tells her the woman is their long-dead mother who, it becomes evident, was victim to frequent beatings by their drunken father. Unable to penetrate the delusion and believing Finlay must have attacked this stranger, the frantic Molly tries every ruse she can to get the perhaps dying woman to a hospital despite Finlay’s being obdurate that she stay.

Molly tries to enlist the help of a technician working on the local phone lines, Tom Driver (Dyneley), but he backs off when threatened by Finlay—who’s by now convinced that his dead Pa is still alive and plotting, perhaps with Molly’s help, to abduct “Mother”. That night Tom returns to offer assistance. As Molly tries to devise some scheme whereby Finlay might be coaxed from the house so Tom could snatch away the invalid, the local copper (Crawdon), finding Tom’s motorbike at the bottom of the lane, becomes suspicious . . .

This is for the most part tautly scripted and directed, with several good shocks in the right places, although the ending, with its ill advised attempt to add some psychological depth, rather lets it down: “He was everything I had,” says Molly. “Something to take care of. He needed me. And that made me a woman. Half of one, at any rate. Now he’s gone I’m nothing.” Morris manages to hold the whole movie together, with good support from Dyneley, but Patterson’s rendition of the psycho is embarrassingly ham—matters not being helped by his Canadian accent, which is inexplicable in context.

Although made by a different studio (IA as opposed to Merton Park) and having a quite different feel (this is much sparer and grittier), October Moth is occasionally listed as being one of the EDGAR WALLACE MYSTERIES series, perhaps through having been bundled in with some of the latter for a TV incarnation.

8 thoughts on “October Moth (1960)

  1. Your wonderfully descriptive analysis has me most intrigued John. I have never even heard of this particular film, but I have some holes for sure in this genre. Even with the weak ending this economical picture seems well-worth a look-see.

  2. Pingback: White Trap, The (1959) | Noirish

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