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Daughter of Darkness (1948)

Emily, a pretty young Irish girl, gets a job on an English farm owned by the Tallent family. The local men take to her but the women don't, objecting to her flirtatious nature with their ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Anne Crawford ...
Maxwell Reed ...
Dan
George Thorpe ...
Mr. Tallent
...
Liam Redmond ...
Father Cocoran
Cyril Smith ...
Joe
...
Julie Tallent
Denis Goacher ...
Saul Trevethick (as Denis Gordon)
Grant Tyler ...
Larry Tallent
Norman Shelley ...
Smithers
George Merritt ...
Constable
Ann Clery ...
Miss Foley
Arthur Hambling ...
Jacob
...
David Price
Leslie Armstrong
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Storyline

Emily, a pretty young Irish girl, gets a job on an English farm owned by the Tallent family. The local men take to her but the women don't, objecting to her flirtatious nature with their men and one woman, Bess Stanforth, is especially disturbed by her. When Dan, a man from Emily's past, shows up and accuses her of having tried to kill him Beth's suspicions are further aroused, and they're confirmed when Dan is found murdered in a local barn. Beth sets out to find out exactly who Emily is and to prove that she murdered Dan. Written by frankfob2@yahoo.com

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

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Crime | Drama | Horror

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Release Date:

8 March 1948 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Filha das Trevas  »

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Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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User Reviews

 
A real lost treasure.
24 February 2000 | by (paris, france) – See all my reviews

For a film of absolutely no reputation, with zero out of four in Halliwell's, directed by a man regarded with as much respect as Ed Wood, this Gothic psychodrama is really rather good. I'm not suggesting that it's in any way a classic - the acting , if I may say so under IMDb guidelines, is indifferent, the pacing in the second half is less than exciting - but as far as scope, subject matter and ambition are concerned, there are few low-budget British films to match it. Imagine a more modestly skilled admirer trying to make a B-movie Powell and Pressburger film replacing genius with added hysteria, then you've some idea of this amazing oddity.

The film opens at a febrile pitch, and barely relents. The opening credits, accompanied by a highly strung score, features Gothic tableaux that give a grotesque precis of the subsequent story - distorted, sharp-edged follies with witchlike fingers, ancient houses, Leroux-like organs, frenzied screams, rabid religious imagery.

The action proper begins in a church, the departing congregation unaccountably demanding the removal from the village of a young woman, Emmie, who remains behind praying. The irrational hatred in their demands is shocking - all we can glean is the supposed effect on men. Two spinster matrons demand her exile from a priest who seems neurotically ragged, probably because of his lust for the girl, who is meanwhile playing a dismally murmuring lament on the organ, having some sort of psychosomatic fit. This is a sequence of remarkable Franju-like beauty, Siobhan MacKenna's fragile, quivering mask evoking great sorrow and distress.

The picture of gentle innocence, it's difficult to see what danger anyone sees in Emmie, but so loaded have been both the accusations and the relentless style, that we shudder when she bends down to talk with a little, shaking girl, who has been warned off by her mother. When Emmie offers her flowers, there is an ominous FRANKENSTEINish (James Whale) frisson, but her mother, terrified, reefs her away, and brings her into a shop. A circus has set up tent nearby, and one of its members, a boxer Dan, has watched this scene, kicks the shop's door down, and asks Emmie to watch him fight tonight. She coyly agrees.

Besotted with lust, Dan turns what is supposed to be a fixed match into a farrago to impress Emmie. They later enjoy themselves throughout the fair, and we see Emmie happy for the first time. The pair venture to a quiet space just outside the fairground. Dan's intentions are clear, but when Emmie professes innocence, he turns nasty. In the next shot we see a petrified Emmie running through the fair, followed by Dan, whose eye has received a violent wound.

The priest succumbs to the public pressure, and sends Emmie to stay in England with a wealthy landowner, Mr. Tallent. She fits in well enough, but one daughter, Bess, views Emmie with an hostility even she can't explain, although intensified by the effect a much more brazen Emmie seems to have on the men folk. One day, Dan's circus comes into town, and Dan reimposes himself on Emmie. We see his injury, a loathsome scratch gashing his eye. He determines to avenge himself on Emmie, and chases her to an isolated barn. Later Emmie is found by her employer running home dazed. The next morning Dan is found dead. (The film isn't even halfway there by this stage!)

DARKNESS is considered notable as the first in-depth treatment of a female serial-killer, but it is much more than that. On an abstract level, Emmie is an embodiment of the Id, the unconscious desires that, if acted on, could result in the destruction of civilised society. This nearly happens as the women intuit, and Emmie is a remarkably subversive presence, linked to the carnivalesque, fairground atmosphere, all the more powerful in that she doesn't seem to understand her own power.

In the conservative societies she disturbs, sex is linked to fertility, reproduction, continuity and the land - Emmie offers a destructive opposite, all-consuming, disruptive and fatal. This allegory is heightened by conscience, the only bind on the Unconscious, here an almost supernatural Alsation that preys on Emmie (a pun on prey and pray pervades the film).

The resolution of this problem might seem reactionary, if it wasn't for the fact that Emmie is so sympathetically portrayed, and her malady is never explained away, its inexplicability making it all the more disturbing; while her enemies are repulsive, intolerant, in both societies becoming a lynch mob.

The film's abstract elements are matched by very real traumas - that of a parentless (she is a daughter of darkness; she calls the very disturbed priest Father, he calls her child) young girl, hounded and lonely in strange lands; class issues (the demonisation of a working class girl by her aristocratic employers), as well as being a returning of the Irish repressed on a complacent, historically amnesiac England (and a new Ireland that is beginning to repeat its repressions).

The portrayal of Emmie's disturbed mind is given a Romantic/Gothic framework (her only peace is facing the ocean on a lonely crag) that is very reminiscent of the Archers. Lance Comfort may not be a 'good' director in the conventional sense, but his seeming fausses pas contribute to the film's disorientating effect. He even pulls off the old heroine trapped by shadow of barred staircase shot with a vivid tangibility not even the great noir directors could quite manage. He follows this with that noir scene's seeming antithesis, a sun-dappled, pastoral idyll, site perhapse of Emmie's rebirth, except for one, very natural shadow, of a gate, with bars. Comfort's use of Gothic and animal imagery as well as some chilling ghost-story effects (see Emmie run away from Dan to the barn, or the whole organ playing sequence), are brilliantly successful.


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