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Convicted murderess Valerie Carns (Ann Blyth) is being transported to Norwich to be executed when a flood strands her and her guards at a convent hospital. Nurse Sister Mary (Claudette Colbert) becomes convinced of her innocence and sets out to find the real killer. Written by
Herman Seifer <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Ann Blyth is soon to be executed for murder, but nun Claudette Colbert believes she's innocent
"Thunder on the Hill" (1951) is a noir, featuring the beautiful photography of William H. Daniels. This movie does not make it into lists of best noirs or lists of favorites, with good reason, but its quality is reasonably good. It is at least intriguing in its assortment of characters, its setting and the mystery element. It's a plus to have this movie available on DVD in such good condition. This is a studio-bound Universal production, and it almost seems British due to its cast.
The story is a mystery-thriller that's set in a convent during a flood that's isolated it. Police take refuge with convicted murderess Ann Blyth who is scheduled to be hung the next day; but the flood is delaying the transportation. Nun Claudette Colbert takes an interest and believes Blyth to be innocent. Going against the orders of the superior Gladys George, Colbert goes by boat to fetch Blyth's love, Philip Friend. She's rowed there by Michael Pate, the odd convent handyman with a temper. In subtle ways, Colbert edges into an investigation.
The story is rather diffuse, bringing together disparate elements and telling the story of the murder indirectly through dialog. Colbert's back story and her guilt over his sister's death are not integrated into the story smoothly. The behavior of Gladys George at times also doesn't flow smoothly. One gets the feeling that the writers struggled with translating a play to the screen.
Still, there's more than enough going on here to maintain our interest. The photography alone plus a few of the performances keep us going. Blyth gives us a highly-emotional woman proclaiming her innocence. Colbert's character has interior conflict more difficult to assess. Robert Douglas is very effective as a doctor who fears losing his wife, Anne Crawford, and keeps her on sedatives. John Abbott, a lab assistant, is an odd one as is Michael Pate. Connie Gilchrist adds quite a lot as a nun who cooks and who is Colbert's confidante. Add in a thrill or two as the story matures and the overall result is likable.
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