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Paul Raden (Albert Dekker), hopelessly insane son of Maxim Raden, hated owner of the Radentown mills, is in a strait jacket in a secret room in the family mansion, while the body of his father is lowered into a grave. Twenty-five years earlier, the brutal father had hurled Paul against a wall when the young boy had tried to defend his mother and, with his brain injured forever, Paul's last memory, before descending into the shadows on insanity, was his mother's agonized scream. At the graveside are Dr. Ben Saunders (Harry Carey), Paul's twin brother John (Albert Dekker) and John's wife Elaine (Frances Farmer). Pompey (Ernest Whitman'), the family servant who has cared for and guarded Paul and kept the family secret for a quarter of a century,watches from afar. That night Dr. Saunders tells John that his twin, who he thought dead, is alive as the father, refusing to commit him to an institution, had bribed the doctor to sign a false death certificate and then bury another child's body ... Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
One of over 700 Paramount productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. See more »
[Eyeing Raden's bankroll]
Say, if I had a wad of folding dough like that I'd go right out and buy an outfit that would knock this neighborhood cockeyed!
See more »
Deranged twin brother escapes home confinement after father's death and tries to fit into a new life.
Wacky, highly original horror story. When the luscious Hayward (Millie) makes her entrance at the stairs' top, it's like an explosion of saucy sex appeal. There's enough lively personality there to light up the room. In fact, her gold-digging coquette manages to steal the film. And that's against tough competition from Dekker as the wide-eyed, strangely sympathetic mad strangler. Together, they're easily one of filmdom's genuine odd couples.
Frankly, the story at times makes little sense. But that's okay because it's the characters and Gothic atmosphere that distinguish the film. It's also one of the few films where the camera pans through a hellish mansion, only to focus finally on a guy in a straitjacket (Dekker as the mad Paul), of all things.
Catch that opening scene with the unemployed mill workers taunting the funeral rites for the mill owner. In fact, there's an odd class undercurrent to the screenplay as a whole. Considering that blacklisted leftist Lester Cole did both the story and the script, that's not surprising.
Moreover, the screenplay can be viewed as something of an allegory with mad brother Paul as the brutalized innocent, who would like to side with the workers (he prefers living with them), but has been too damaged by his mill owner father to be able to. In that sense, he suggests Dad's repressed (straitjacketed) humane side hidden away from public view, but finally released by Dad's death into a world his now childlike nature can't comprehend. More tragically, he can only relieve a woman's scream of pain by strangling her, the memory of his abused mother and his attempt to help still fresh in his mind. Dekker's affecting performance with its unexpected degree of pathos underscores, I believe, something of this way of looking at things.
Director Heisler certainly has a flair for exciting crowd scenes. That clip joint with its frenetic swing dancers is a marvel of editing and atmosphere, a really memorable scene. And those teeming street crowds add both color and more atmosphere. The movie's commanding visuals owe a lot to the underrated Heisler. Too bad, however, the talented Frances Farmer is largely wasted in a brief, conventional role.
Anyway, in my little book, the movie's a one-of-a-kind that rises above the ordinary B- feature or horror film, and should not be missed.
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