|Index||8 reviews in total|
Girl Who Dared, The (1944)
** 1/2 (out of 4)
Decent "B" flick from Republic has a group of people invited to a party at a creepy house where legend has it a ghost appears once a year. It turns out this group doesn't know who invited them and sure enough it doesn't take long before one by one they start dropping dead. The "old dark house" genre was more than fifteen-years-old by the time this one here was released to theaters so needless to say there's really nothing new or original here. The more of these films I watch the more I realize that they were all for the most part cheaply made and I'm really not sure what the point of so many of them were unless they simply made a lot of money on small budgets. This one here certainly isn't a masterpiece but at just 52-minutes the thing is short enough to be fairly entertaining. I think the best thing the film has going for it is the nice cast, which includes Peter Cookson as a mysterious mechanic, Lorna Gray as the main female, Willie Best as the nervous servant and Grant Withers as one of the many possible murderers. Each person turns in a fine performance with Best once again doing that scary-cat act like no other. The story itself isn't all that bad and I actually enjoyed the backstory dealing with a pirate ship that crashed a hundred years earlier and this is where the ghost comes from. We also have a subplot dealing with radiation and the impact it might have on the person who comes in contact with it. There's some fairly good atmosphere but there's no question that they weren't meaning for this to be anything other than cheap entertainment. Fans of the genre who must see everything will certainly want to check it out but others will probably be squirming in their seats. This certainly isn't the type of movie for everyone but fans of the genre should find it entertaining.
"The Girl Who Dared" sounds more like a Western adventure instead of a B old-dark-house mystery, but the latter is what it is. This fast (under an hour), breezy film is something of a variation of "And Then There Were None," and actually beat the film version of the Agatha Christie novel to the screens by a year! It leaves no convention unexplored and no cliché unplumbed, and the identity of the killer is more random than motive-inspired. But it is competently done, with some interesting camera work for such a cheapie, and a couple decent plot twists. The trapping of the killer is unique, too. The cast performs competently, and some of the actors play against their usual types, particularly Roy Barcroft, normally a Western and Serial heavy who here plays the hotheaded, jealous ex-husband of one of the key characters, and Kirk "Superman" Alyn, as the equally hot-headed brother of the "Girl" of the title. John "Perry White" Hamilton also enjoys a larger and different kind of role than he was normally given. If only the filmmakers had been so generous with Willie Best, who once again shuffles around as a pop-eyed, comic relief servant who is afraid of his own shadow. All in all, it's worth an hour of a movie buff's time.
The other reviews raise pretty obviously legitimate criticisms of this film, but I love it to death. Plot-wise, it's not particularly ambitious, and the racist representation of the servant is cringe- worthy. But I strangely find the movie enchanting and can watch it over and over. It's gorgeously atmospheric--the kind of cinematography I just eat up. The love story is modestly feasible, with two likable actors inhabiting those roles. I try to watch as many "old dark house" films as I can, because I love the look of them, I love murder mysteries, and it's a nice way to understand some of the conventions, fashions, trends, and language of the 30s and 40s. Unfortunately this film is not available on DVD, as far as I can tell. It streams on amazon, but you never know when those things are going to disappear. Again, this film is not technically a *10*, but I find it beautiful and absorbing, with the quintessential "old dark house" elements pure and strong.
While this film has no big names (in fact no names I have heard at
all), it still manages to be a fun "old dark house" film with a clever
plot and interesting characters. The story and plot revolve around
radiation, which I found to be very appropriate and a bit novel for the
I also have to call out the black servant, Woodrow, played by Willie Best. Best may not be a household name, but he had an incredible career (including such films as "High Sierra" and "Cabin in the Sky"). Maybe it is wrong of me to find humor in these "black servant" roles. Maybe they are racist. But Best does them well, making the characters he plays endearing and fun. I look forward to seeing his work.
I recommend this film. It is short, so you are not investing much time. And it is well-written and of above average quality. Definitely worth a peek.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
THE GIRL WHO DARED 1944
Quite watchable dark house mystery put out by Republic Pictures. A group of folks arrive at a country mansion for a party. The problem here is that the invitations were not sent by the home owner. The main leads are played by Lorna Gray, (Adrian Booth) Peter Cookson, Grant Withers, Veda Ann Borg, (playing twins) Kirk Alyn, John Hamilton and Willie Best.
Bodies start to pile up and the people are of course all blaming each other. Arriving on the scene is Investigator Cookson. He is pursuing a big city Doctor who absconded with $60,000 worth of radium. He suspects that one of the guests is in league with said Doctor.
The story is old hat and supplies nothing really new. But the pace is brisk and the actors seem to relish their parts. Somewhat wasted is Willie Best doing the frightened servant bit he had done in more than one film.
Anyways, there is the mandatory scene where all are gathered in a room while the Detective, Cookson flushes out the killer. If you have an hour to kill, this quickie should fill the bill nicely.
Okay, you've likely seen the format beforea creepy isolated house, a
series of murders, an attractive cast that includes the murderer, and
an amateur sleuth. But also throw in a batch of radium a full year
before the A-bomb, plus a purported ghost, for good measure.
Surprisingly, the rather murky whodunit is not uppermost, instead it's
the characters and atmosphere. What it all adds up to is a decent
little programmer for wartime audiences and even for later folks taking
a break from the computer.
You just know from the outset that despite appearances Blair (Cookson) can't be the bad guy, he's just too good-looking. Besides, the winsome Ann (Gray) takes a shine to him, and you know how Hollywood is in that regard. It's an attractive cast of vets and up and comers, but I did get confused at times with the similar names and appearances. Plus, the reveal scene was much too brief, like someone's contract had suddenly run out. Nonetheless, that one ghost scene was truly spooky, along with the usual secret passages, shadowy rooms, and stormy nights. Come to think of it, I miss old b&w for the effects that color simply cannot duplicatenew Hollywood should loosen up! Anyway, it's a fun little hour with a gang of Hollywood pro's and an old dark house. So how can you lose.
Several people are invited to the home of Beau and Chattie Richmond for a party at which the "ghost of Heron Point" will make an appearance. The thing is - the Richmonds did not send out the invitations. The ghost is supposedly one of the crew of a pirate ship that sunk a hundred years ago near the Richmond estate. Then there's the mysterious mechanic who crashes the party. While the guests await for the ghost to appear, one of them is murdered but her body later disappears. Two more murders follow. This dark house type mystery is devoid of humor, has a thin and unbelievable plot, and a not really spooky atmosphere but is nonetheless mildly entertaining to watch because of the cast. Oh, there's Superman (Kirk Alyn), there's Perry White (John Hamilton), there's the guy that was in a gazillion Westerns (Roy Bancroft), there's Loretta Young's first husband and actor in dozens of B movies (Grant Withers), there's the brassy and always competent character actress Veda Ann Borg, and last, but not least, there's Willie Best as the servant who is always scared. At least the motive for the murder is somewhat innovative as is the ploy for identifying him. The lead characters, played by Peter Cookson and Lorna Gray are pretty bland. It is sad, though, to have to watch the talented comedian Willie Best as a shuffling, scared servant. This an actor who Bob Hope evidently referred to as one of the finest performers he ever worked with. What a waste and what a shame.
No great acting or production values here. Just a simple "B" mystery that lasts about 52 minutes. I, personally, enjoy this genre but I am under no illusions as to the craftsmanship of the production. Still, one can always count on certain things happening in this type of movie. Willie Best plays the servant so you know there will be some scenes with a scared, shivering, character. There's always a couple of red herrings as the identity of a triple murderer is ferreted out. And, lastly, the murderer is trapped by a trick device in the room where the entire set of suspects are present.
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