British hunter Thorndike vacationing in Bavaria has Hitler in his gun sight. He is captured, beaten, left for dead, and escapes back to London where he is hounded by German agents and aided by a young woman.
An altruistic department-store owner hires ex-convicts in order to give them a second chance at life. Unfortunately, one of the convicts he hires recruits two of his fellow ex-convicts in a plan to rob the store.
The unsuccessful writer Stephen Byrne tries to force his servant Emily Gaunt sexually while his wife Marjorie Byrne is visiting a friend and accidentally strangles her. His crippled brother John Byrne coincidently comes to his house in that moment, and Stephen asks him to help to get rid of the corpse and avoid an scandal, since his wife would be pregnant. The naive and good John helps his brother to dump the body in the river nearby his house. Stephen uses the disappearance of Emily to blame her and promote his book. When the body is found by the police, all the evidences points to John, and he becomes the prime suspect of the murder. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
House By The River was a simple tale masterfully brought to the screen by Fritz Lang in his best conventional yet classy style. It was shot on a shoestring budget for Republic but a brooding atmosphere was captured beautifully by intelligent production and marvellous period sets on sharp nitrate film stock. Even the studio shot scenes of the garden with long shots of the bricky houses are fascinating to sink into.
Louis Haywood plays a budding writer with pretensions to Art and dubious morals who accidentally murders his lowly servant girl and drags his weaker brother into the mess to help him out. The story is simply played out to the bitter end, and although I wish the police angle could have been given more prominence it's completely logical. The part the River plays isn't as large as the House, but it's a darkly inspired mix; I've always wondered what colour the wallpaper was. Haywood often played ambivalent characters, however there's no ambivalence here in his portrayal of Stephen Byrne he's an evil swine all right. When it's all done you should be left with admiration for a director who could make a little go such a long way, with the help of a great team and cast of course!
It deserves more attention than it gets maybe the simple descriptive title didn't help it win immortality, otoh a more eye-catching "Strangled In The Dark" wouldn't have been as good either! This is one of those little films to treasure and something to revel in at the cinema or late at night on TV with the lights off for maximum effect.
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