The wheelchair-bound matriarch of an English family uses her handicap to cynically manipulate all those around her. She coldly destroys a daughter's relationship with a man she truly loves,...
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The wheelchair-bound matriarch of an English family uses her handicap to cynically manipulate all those around her. She coldly destroys a daughter's relationship with a man she truly loves, and her machinations almost drive the son's fiance to suicide. As the family realizes what she is doing, she becomes even more calculating - and mentally unbalanced.Written by
Charles Bickford brought the Margaret Ferguson novel to Susan Peters' attention, through her agent. She interested retired director Irving Cummings in the property, Cummings formed an independent company with the Orsatti agency to produce the film. Under the deal they arranged with Columbia, Peters received one-third of the profits. See more »
[All goofs for this title are spoilers.]
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Intense psychological drama of the type so popular at the time. Scheming Leah (Susan Peters) is wheel-chair bound in a houseful of young women; so of course we're all initially sympathetic, but then events begin to unfold. The movie is generally under-rated by the professionals, perhaps because the material sizes up as a "woman's picture". Nonetheless, it's a broodingly atmospheric production, well-acted and superbly directed. Since events take place in and around a single sea-side mansion, keeping the audience engaged becomes a challenge. Thus direction, acting and set design take on more than usual importance. I'm rather surprised that the normally budget-minded and outdoorsy Columbia studio responds as well as it does. Note how beautifully composed each frame is-- director Sturges' very real artistic eye is already in evidence, well before his celebrated conquest of wide-screen Cinemascope. Even the process shots (always a tricky challenge) of a roiling surf are expertly done, adding greatly to the sinister mood. (In passing-- there's a 10 second shot two-thirds of the way through of Phyllis Thaxter standing at a window, exulting in Logan's departure. A brief scene like this could have easily been done in spartan fashion. But notice how artistically this passing shot is both mounted and composed. It's touches like this that add up to a memorable production.) If I'm going on about the technical side, it's because this obscure little film more than most exemplifies studio craftsmanship at its 40's best.
The plot itself provides the tragically star-crossed Peters with her final film role, and she's excellent in a carefully modulated performance that could have easily gone over the top. Notice how expressively she uses her hands and fingers to suggest repressed inner feelings as she navigates through a house full of surging hormones. (I wonder how much of the real person crippled by a hunting accident is in that performance.) On the other hand, Alexander Knox as her husband strikes me as a shade too old and too stolid, but maybe he's supposed to be. The young couple, Logan and Catherine (Diana Douglas) are appropriately callow, while Douglas brings off her big scene with Peters in convincing fashion, a difficult challenge. Too bad that fine actress Phyllis Thaxter is given little more to do than stand around and look helpful as the "other woman". For those whose imagination tends to take over, it's perhaps not a stretch to think of the film as Leah's final few moments before going over the edge. Considering the movie's claustrophobic setting, a strictly "mental" dimension seems not far-fetched. However that may be, the film is a real sleeper, unfortunately under-rated, and well worth a look see, especially on a foggy night.
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