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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
Beautiful young Sarah Bonheur is enchanted by the cultured Richard Howard who is visiting her château near Bordeaux on a business trip. But Richard suffers his latest and most devastating humiliation by his dominant younger brother John who takes the deal out of Richard's hands and captures the affections of Sarah whom he marries and takes back to Manchester.
But Sarah, despite her best efforts, finds married life in John's gloomy mansion lonely and depressing and turns to Richard for advice. Now fired with hatred and jealousy toward his brother, he does his best to break up the marriage, but is ultimately unsuccessful.
John now falls ill and Richard poisons him, slyly exploiting the latent hostility of the household's servants toward Sarah in framing her for the crime...
This powerful drama is an interesting example of a strand of late 1940s British cinema, but has been long neglected and not shown on British TV for many years, if at all. Set in the late Victorian and early Edwardian eras, it has excellent period detail and the sets effectively highlight Sarah's alienation and despair in the Howards's suffocating and gloomy household.
The director ensures that the film never drags, not something that can be said of all of his work, and it has a sympathetic score from Bernard Stevens, though the sinister chords that greet Richard's appearances are perhaps overdone. Star Eric Portman is memorable in this role, though tends to overact in the crucial courtroom scene. This was becoming a familiar type of role for him at the time, and perhaps contributed to contemporary critics antipathy to the film. His nemesis provides an early part for the likable Dermot Walsh, while the adorable Sally Gray provides a sensitive and intelligent performance as Sarah in a production which underlines the oppressive treatment of women at the turn of the last century.
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