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Charles Marquis Warren
In 1848, a young Frenchwoman, Madeline Minot, goes to New York City to see Thevenet, the grandfather of her fiance. Thevenet had been with Napoleon and may be sympathetic to the political aims of his grandson. She finds the old man in very bad spirits, living in a large house with a housekeeper and a butler who are just waiting for him to die (and perhaps helping him along a bit) so they can inherit his fortune. They see Madeline as a threat to their plans. She is aided in her dealings with these strange people by a mysterious man in a cloak. Written by
John Oswalt <firstname.lastname@example.org>
After the first meeting with Madeleine, Charles Theverner addresses his pet raven named Villon, after the French poet François Villon, and quotes from Villon's "Ballade des dames du temps jadis" ("Ballad of the Ladies of Times Past"): "Où sont les neiges d'antant?" ("Oh, where are the snows of yesteryear!"). Later, Dupin quotes the same Ballad in English. He also reads from the book a few lines of Edgar Poe's "The Raven." See more »
Though the mystery man is in reality no mystery man--most viewers will be able to identify the literary figure from the beginning--this movie gem now almost forgotten is well written, well acted, and well presented. It still packs a wallop, filled with thrills and suspense. Not surprisingly, the leads give outstanding performances as one would expect from the likes of Joseph Cotten, Barbara Stanwyck, Louis Calhern, and Leslie Caron. What is surprising is how well Jim Backus (Mr. Magoo) as Flaherty the good-hearted if cynical bartender shines in a small part, as does Joe De Santis, now known mainly for his TV work, playing the sinister and potentially deadly Martin, the butler. Margaret Wycherly too plays Mrs. Flynn, the pessimistic yet wily housekeeper, to perfection.
The story by detective novelist John Dickson Carr while not all that original is aided by a witty script by Frank Fenton. The plot is a rehash of the age-old ploy of a group of hangers-on after an old man's fortune, this time led by a conniving siren. What makes this one somewhat fresh is the introduction of a historical character and a pretty French guest who supplies intrigue smiting of revolutionary Europe in 1848, in the aftermath of the fall of Napoleon's empire. There is also an unexpected death to make it all the more interesting. All in all an entertaining film that deserves more recognition.
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