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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
Caroline Ruthyn is the teen-aged niece of the her uncle Silas, a sickly and at one time unbalanced man who becomes her guardian on the death of her father. The fact that Silas is broke and greedy and young Caroline is the heir to her father's great fortune is reason enough for Caroline to be wary, but her fears escalate when she meets Silas's perverted son and when she discovers that her fearsome former governess, Madame de la Rougierre, is in league with her uncle. Written by
Jim Beaver <firstname.lastname@example.org>
This little known film disappeared into obscurity and without much comment after its release in 1947. It has resurfaced on British TV in recent years where it has been given several matinee showings. BBC readapted the Sheridan Le Fanu novel as "The Dark Angel" for its classic novel Christmas offering in 1987. In Peter O'Toole they found a much more striking eponymous villain than Derrick de Marney but in every other sense it is the monochrome 'forties version that gives me the stronger pleasure. How could if fail with a heroine as touchingly vulnerable as Jeans Simmons at her most enchanting. The pair that later directed her in "So Long at the Fair" must have known of "Uncle Silas" when they opened their film with a similar wondrous closeup to our first encounter with her here. I know nothing of the director Charles Frank apart from "Uncle Silas" but the hands of a talented craftsman are clearly at the helm of this atmospheric adaptation of the Victorian Gothic melodrama about a dastardly uncle's attempt to wrest an inheritance from his trusting young niece. It is a pity that Derrick de Marney's hammy performance does not resonate with a greater sense of evil, but there is compensation in his confidante, Madame de la Rougierre who, in the hands of Katrina Paxinau, is one of cinema's most sinister female monsters. I was not disappointed when the sequence that had so fascinated me as an impressionable adolescent, where the evil governess embarks with her young charge on a journey of deception, emerged as powerfully as ever after a gap of so many years. The clock chimes of Bartram Manor that conclude this episode, like the huntsman's cry of "Gone to Earth" in the Powell and Pressburger masterpiece are among my most haunting cinematic memories. I often wonder if young audiences of today find similar marvels in the films made for them.
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