Kindly soup kitchen operator and professor of criminology Bela Lugosi uses his soup kitchen as a front for a criminal gang who commit a series of daring robberies and murders. When things ... See full summary »
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The real Red Barn, where Maria Marten was murdered in 1828 is in the village of Polstead, Suffolk, UK. Baroness Rendell of Babergh lives there now; she is better known as crime writer Ruth Rendell . See more »
Squire William Corder:
Didn't I make you a promise, Maria? I promised to make you a bride. Don't be afraid, Maria. You shall be a bride...a bride of Death!
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Tod Slaughter was able to do one important action as an actor - he put on film a series of the popular "warhorse" melodramas that were the meat and potatos of Victorian theatre way into the 20th Century. He knew these plays and their lead roles by heart, and how the public wanted him to play those villains. And several of the films were based on actual cases.
That is the case with the murder of Maria Marten at the Red Barn in Polstead, England. In 1827 William Corder, the surviving son of a fairly prosperous farmer, had an affair with Maria Marten (the daughter of a mole catcher). She became pregnant, and demanded he do the right thing. After hemming and hawing a bit William agreed to leaving with Maria for their future together. But he insisted she meet him secretly at the Red Barn, and she wear male attire. She did, but she informed her step-mother who watched her head for the Red Barn. Maria was never seen again for the next year. But letters from William, from London, came telling how Maria and he were very happy together.
One day (we are told) Mrs. Marten had a nightmare in which she saw Maria's body in the barn. She insisted her husband look. Mr. Marten did, and in digging up the floor of the barn found Maria's remains. The authorities started looking for Corder, and found he was living in London with a wife, and running a school. He was arrested, brought back to Bury St. Edmunds (the nearest town to Polestead), tried for Maria's murder, and found guilty.
He was executed in 1828.
Did Corder kill Maria? Most criminal historians feel he did, and are impressed at his initial attempt at a perfect crime - but why did it fall apart so easily? However one writer, Donald McCormick, wrote THE RED BARN MYSTERY, and pointed out that there were lots of questionable points in the story. Mrs. Marten's behavior, for instance. Local rumors said she had had an affair with Corder before he turned to Maria. Did the jealous woman suspect Corder's motives about the secrecy and disguise - but if she did, why did she not warn Maria? And if she did why didn't she tell her husband earlier? Did those letters really convince her that Maria was safe, or was her "dream" fake? McCormick suggested a different solution to the murder but it was rather bizaar.
Anyway the film with Slaughter keeps the traditional solution. And he goes to town with it.
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