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Leslie Calvin, traumatized from being the only survivor of a torpedo attack on the ship she was traveling by, eagerly accepts her aunt and uncle's invitation to go live with them on a nice quiet estate. But when she arrives at the train station, no one is there to meet her and she is unable to ignore the feeling that something is terribly off. Is she slowly going mad or is there something darker going on?Written by
Sam Goldberg <email@example.com>
Dr. George Grover drives Leslie Calvin to Rossignol in his car. As the car makes a left turn as it passes the camera it is clear that Leslie Calvin is driving the car, whereas in the following shot Dr. Grover is driving his car. See more »
Must be awful drowning in quicksand. Much worse than water. Water's cleaner at least, faster.
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De Toth fails to elevate Dark Waters above standard Gothic `jep'
The imperiled woman in a great spooky house remains one of Hollywood's most honorable of hackneyed plots. These `jeps' ask us to accept that a woman, usually young, beautiful and sophisticated, sinks deeper into danger despite all the warning signals blinking around her. Still, a few directors have managed to elevate the material a notch or two above the predictable: Jacques Tourneur in Experiment Perilous, Fritz Lang in House by the River, Douglas Sirk in Sleep, My Love. Any hopes that Andre de Toth (The Pitfall, Crime Wave) might work the same black magic crumble, however, with his early Gothic noir, Dark Waters.
Merle Oberon a classic Eurasian beauty but never much of an actor is the survivor of a ship torpedoed by the Japanese in the East Indies (the ship set out from what the movie calls Batavia but we know as Jakarta). Somehow, she ends up in New Orleans, where an aunt and uncle keep a moldering plantation in nearby bayou country. She arrives there, under the care of a doctor (Franchot Tone; has it ever been remarked that he and Ralph Bellamy share the same set of vocal cords?). But, upon her arrival, we start to suspect , long before she, that ALL IS NOT AS IT SEEMS.
The aunt (Fay Bainter) and uncle extend her a back-handed welcome but seem preoccupied; they also seem to get pieces of the family history wrong. In addition, they're under the thumb of their plantation manager (Thomas Mitchell, who of course got his start running Tara) and his weasly assistant, Elisha Cook, Jr. (who does his expected shtik; did he never weary of playing this dumb but cocky chump?).
The story advances neither swiftly nor arrestingly. Attempts to `gaslight' Oberon amount to a bedside lamp that switches off then on again, and distant voices beckoning her to the quicksand which studs the surrounding swampland. Slowly, the light begins to dawn behind Oberon's big, perfectly made-up eyes...
And that's just about all there is to Dark Waters hot spells and Spanish moss. De Toth, who was able to peer deep into the background of middle-class complacency in The Pitfall, a few years later, seems to have taken a case of the vapors amid all this languid Louisiana atmosphere. All he comes up with is this slow, flaccid film.
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