House of Mystery (1961)

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Mordre wol out!
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UK / 54 minutes / bw / Independent Artists, Anglo–Amalgamated Dir & Scr: Vernon Sewell Pr: Julian Wintle, Leslie Parkyn Story: L’Angoisse (n.d.) by Pierre Mills and Celia de Vilyars Cine: Ernest Steward Cast: Jane Hylton, Peter Dyneley, Nanette Newman, Maurice Kaufmann, Colin Gordon, John Merivale, Ronald Hines, Colette Wilde, Molly Urquhart, George Selway, Freda Bamford, Roy Purcell, John Abineri, Pearson Dodd.

Vernon Sewell bought the screen rights of the Pierre Mills and Celia de Vilyars stage play L’Angoisse and went on to film it no fewer than four times, of which this was the fourth. The other three were The Medium (1934), Latin Quarter (1945) and Ghost Ship (1952); I’ve already written on this site about Latin Quarter—a far more ambitious effort than this offering. What puzzles me is that, despite supposedly being based on the same play, the two movies—the 1945 one being cheerily Grand Guignol and this one being a fairly straightforward, sub-M.R. Jamesian ghost story of the kind you might expect the BBC to broadcast around Christmas—don’t seem to have a huge amount in common. Moreover, while the seemingly supernatural component of Latin Quarter can be more or less rationalized, that’s far from so in this case.

So why am I talking about the movie here? Is it just because I’m a confirmed Nanette Newman fanboy? Ahem. Heaven forfend. Nothing of the sort. Surely. The raison d’être of this entry is that the movie’s a variant of Latin Quarter, which most certainly is of interest within the broadish parameters of this site.

Nanette Newman as Joan.

Somewhere near Barnstaple in North Devon, in the UK’s southwest, a househunting young couple, Alan (Hines) and his unnamed wife (Wilde), arrive at Orchard Cottage. It’s spacious and lovely and it’s in its own grounds, and it’s remarkably cheap:

Alan: “Darling, this is the one that’s £2,500.”
Wife: “Well, the price is ridiculous. Must be falling to bits or something.”

Later, just to remind us how things have changed a tad since 1961, certainly in the area of house prices, Alan qualifies: “Must be worth at least £6,000.”

They’re met at the door by a rather creepy middle-aged woman whom they assume to be the caretaker. She starts to tell them about the house, and the Continue reading

Third Visitor, The (1951)

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A twisty mystery with a tremendous finale!
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UK / 85 minutes / bw / Merton Park, Elvey-Gartside, Eros Dir: Maurice Elvey Pr: Ernest Gartside Scr: Gerald Anstruther, David Evans Story: The Third Visitor (1950 play) by Gerald Anstruther Cine: Stephen Dade Cast: Sonia Dresdel, Guy Middleton, Hubert Gregg, Colin Gordon, Karel Stepanek, Eleanor Summerfield, John Slater, Michael Martin Harvey, Cyril Smith.

Third Visitor - 0 opener

Adapted from a successful West End play, this is an example of quite how well the postwar UK moviemakers could craft their entertainments using the minimal resources available to them.

Obviously done on a budget, The Third Visitor nevertheless absolutely satisfies its remit, which is to keep us engrossed for an hour and a half or so. The plot’s as twisty as that of the average modern neonoir, and some of the volte-faces are genuinely surprising. Only once or twice do we become aware of Continue reading

Green Man, The (1956)

UK / 77 minutes / bw / Grenadier, British Lion Dir: Robert Day Pr & Scr: Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat Story: Meet A Body (1954 play) by Frank Launder, Sidney Gilliat Cine: Gerald Gibbs Cast: Alastair Sim, George Cole, Terry-Thomas, Jill Adams, Raymond Huntley, Colin Gordon, Avril Angers, John Chandos, Eileen Moore, Arthur Brough, Dora Bryan, Richard Wattis, Alexander Gauge, Cyril Chamberlain, Vivien Wood, Marie Burke, Lucy Griffiths, Michael Ripper, Doris Yorke, Terence Alexander.

By no stretch of the imagination is this a film noir; rather, it belongs to the same stream of UK crime comedies whose best-known representatives include Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949), The Lavender Hill Mob (1951), The LADYKILLERS (1955) and School for Scoundrels (1960). It has, too, many of the characteristics of a Whitehall farce, with the same fine timing, mockery of pretensions, and expert manipulation of misunderstandings, especially of an amorous nature.

The glorious piano trio make amorous eyes at the gentlemanly knave Hawkins.

Outwardly respectable Hawkins (Sim)—although he uses other aliases—discovered the art of murder-by-bomb while he was still in preparatory school at Embrook House, whose loathed headmaster Continue reading