Movie Reviews 376 – The Head (1959)

January 11, 2019

Let me start by declaring that when it comes to disembodied noggin films The Brain That Wouldn’t Die stands head over heels (pun intended) above all the rest. That said, the German production of The Head (Der Kopf?) comes in at pretty close second. But with a number of similarities between the two I have an inkling that those were not mere coincidences and that those who made the so called undying brain probably pilfered a few ideas from this Deutsch predecessor.

This is your standard Mad Scientist tale, in this case said scientist being Doctor Ood (Horst Frank) who arrives at a medical facility late one night at the request of Professor Abel (Michel Simon) who has developed Serum Z, a formula that he has used to keep animal tissue alive. Abel has summoned Ood to help him perform a transplant operation on his own weak heart, and when a sickly vagrant with a terminal diagnosis is obtained from the local hospital Ood begins the operation. The procedure is a failure but Ood takes advantage to simply salvage Abel’s head, keeping it alive on a rolling cart using serum Z. Much to Abel’s horror when he wakes up and sees his bodiless head in a mirror, Ood scoffs at Abel’s pleas to kill him.

But Ood does not stop there. When he meets a hunchbacked nurse who was hoping to undergo an operation at Abel’s facilities to ease her affliction, Ood woos lures an old Fräulein acquaintance now working as a burlesque dancer and achieves his ultimate goal: a full head transplant! But Irene is suspicious of the miraculous changes to her body and when a particular beauty mark is noticed by one of the dancer’s former suitors they begin to ‘piece’ together the true nature of her operation.

The burlesque showgirl body donor, the fact that she is modeling for artist on the side, the dive jazz joint, the mad scientist, the senior moral doctor rejecting any notion of unethical transplants and a finale that culminates with a fire that conveniently reduces the evidence (not to mention the head) to ashes are all shared between Die Nackte und der Satan (the catchy original German title of The Head) and The Brain That Wouldn’t Die released three years later. Similarities too numerous to ignore. But unlike its superior copycat, The Head was not as widely distributed and something of a treasure to enjoy despite the sense of déjà vu.

My Alpha Video DVD specifically proclaimed that it contained a ‘remastered’ version but ‘remastered’ must mean something else in German since my video was grainy, had plenty of vertical line abrasions, was splotchy at some points and clearly missing some footage as scenes end abruptly mid-action. But that is not to say that it made this unwatchable. It would take a lot more than that for me to pass up a movie like this.

Auf wiedersehen!

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Movie Reviews 375 – The Day the Fish Came Out (1967)

January 5, 2019

I’ve always had a taste for the offbeat and camp movies (if you haven’t noticed) and The Day the Fish Came Out, probably one you’ve never heard of before, has always been one of my favorites. For some strange reason this was one of those films that my local TV station, CFCF-12 Montreal used to play over and over when I was a kid. But honestly, I was hooked the first time.

Part of the eccentricity lays not in just the plot itself, but the genre and setting. Believe it or not this is a Greek production of a science fiction comedy that skirts a doomsday scenario of all things . Written, directed and produced by Michael Cacoyannis (of Zorba the Greek fame) it was loosely based – and I do mean loosely – on the real life accidental dropping of hydrogen bombs on a Spanish island, the so called Palomares incident, just a year earlier. Cacoyannis took that concept, changed the island to Karos Greece, threw in lots of bikinis and made it colorful beyond belief.

The military trackers of a mission note the radar disappearance of a plane whose precarious cargo consists of two bombs and a particularly radioactive large metal container simply codenamed “Q”. When it becomes evident that the plane is lost a team a recovery team is sent to the island posing as real estate developers who want to build a hotel, despite the obvious barren landscape. Meanwhile the plane pilot and navigator (Colin Blakely and Tom Courtenay) are left scrambling and hiding with nothing but their skivvies, without any way to communicate with command. To make matters worse, “Q” is found by a peasant goat herder intent on cracking open the box dreaming of what must surely be riches within.

But the fun really starts when the locals start promoting the island and foreign touring groups, believing it to be the next hot-spot vacation destination, start sending tourists in droves to Karos. The leader of the covert military team (Sam Wanamaker) now has the added headache of keeping the tanned and toned tourists from interfering the mission to find Q.  Especially troublesome is the vivacious Electra (Candice Bergen, who was a model long before she was an actress) who has her eyes on one particular able seaman (Ian Ogilvy) who is soon ordered to keep her occupied.

Despite many flaws this movie still works on so many levels. There is the clash of cultures, the nutty characters such as a torturous dentist, the bumbling plane crew at each others nerves and scurrying like hobos throughout the film, the determination of the goat herder to try ever more powerful tools and techniques to open the container, and the frantic locals doing everything to try to cash in on the tourist trade. The backdrop transforms from a mundane archaic town to a rainbow painted settlement. The tourists that take over are a futuristic looking collection of Warhol-esque models that would look at home on a 60’s Parisian catwalk. You really have to see the outlandish garments to believe them. And when they party to a catchy heavy beat tune they flail their arms while shouting “Cooah-Cooah!” like giant multi colored birds in heat.

Perhaps the greatest appeal is how deftly the story navigates the boundary between comedy and  sombre drama. As the silliness in town gets weirder by the minute, the movie switches over to the desperation of a father sweating with every attempt to relieve the misery of his family. Title kind of gives away the ending which begs the question of whether this is really a comedy or a thinly veiled socio-politico commentary. Either way, you will be entertained.

“Cooah-Cooah!”

Movie Reviews 374 – The Nanny (1965)

December 29, 2018

If you thought for even a moment that this was a review of the obnoxious sitcom featuring Fran Drescher and her ear splitting, reverberating nasal laugh I ask you to please leave now before anyone gets hurt. And apologies to those who Googled “Davis Nanny” hoping to find “Alice” – Ann B. Davis – ‘nanny’ to The Brady Bunch, because this has nothing to do with her either.

Still with me? Good. This review is for the sixties film The Nanny produced by Hammer studios and that stars Bette Davis and just having put those two together should be enough to know where this is going.  Now this is not a Hammer Gothic horror that we know and love but rather one of their rarer psychological thrillers that can almost be pigeon holed with the few Film Noir movies they produced just a few years earlier.

Riding on the wave of her return of to the top of the Hollywood pecking order with the fortunes of her hits [Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? and Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte, this was another ‘old biddy’ sub-genre film to take advantage of her now mature personifications. But unlike those other ‘old people’ films this one pits two opposing forces at opposite ends of the age spectrum. Davis is of course the venerable titular ‘nanny’ taking care of a young family that recently has gone through hard times with the passing of their youngest child. Her nemesis is the young son Joey (William Dix), a troubled lad just released from a boarding school for troubled kids. And each of them have a secret.

While the child is clearly a brazen, manipulative, uncontrollable brat he meets his match with the calm, cool, collected nanny who accommodates his every command. But is Joey as evil as he appears, going so far as to stage mock suicides by hanging? Was he somehow responsible for the death of his little sister that so traumatized his mother (Wendy Craig) as to render her the real ‘child’ in need of a nanny? The answer lies in a dark secret held by the nanny that indirectly ties onto the death of the child long ago.

Some standout performances from ‘aunt Pen’ (Jill Bennett) and the upstairs neighbor (Pamela Franklin) round out the performances. While not as recognized as Davis’ other films of its ilk, this is nearly just as good and not to be missed!

Movie Reviews 373 – Silent Night (2012)

December 21, 2018

Nothing says Christmas like a flame-throwing Santa Claus!

Following in her proud father’s footsteps, Aubrey Brandimore (Jaime King) is a loyal small town cop under the watchful eye of sheriff Cooper (Malcolm McDowell). But Aubrey is having a crisis of confidence having recently hesitated to use force when it was necessary on the job. But her true nightmare begins as she is called into work on Christmas day when another officer misses a shift only to find out the reason behind that officer’s “no show” is that he is one of the first victims of a Santa suit wearing serial killer. And Santa’s spree across town puts Aubrey at the center of all the action.

Not to be confused with other bloody yuletide offerings like Silent Night, Deadly Night (and any of its sequels) or Silent Night, Bloody Night where the antagonists are merely a deranged lunatics, this Silent Night red and white suited slayer, while seemingly killing indiscriminately, knows exactly what he’s doing. Well I guess wearing the Saint Nick garb while using a fireplace poker, wood chipper, scythe and the aforementioned flamethrower to slice, dice, garrote and fry people isn’t exactly sane but let’s just say there is a method to the madness.

McDowell as the macho, gung-ho sheriff with the “Not in my town attitude” nearly steals the show but King’s more laid back, methodical and persevering approach to the case is the one that will bear fruit. There’s gore aplenty with body parts all over the place and for those that are familiar with Silent Night, Deadly Night , there is a cool nod to that film with a replicated kill scene. For those that like a bit of kink with Mrs Claus, that too is provided thanks to the mayor’s smokin’ hot daughter who’s making softcore porn movies on the side.

But there are always a few lumps of coal that have to be taken in with the good presents and consequently the film is not without it’s problems. While the setting is supposedly a small town in the midst of a crisis due to a recent mill closure, there seems to be hundreds of so called ‘charity’ Santas all over the place and even in the local pub. After a roundup suspect “tall and large footed Santas” the squad room is filled to the gills with Santas. Basically you can’t throw a stick and not hit a Santa around here. The victim selection seems to be haphazard until the reveal at the end puts it somewhat in perspective but that then does not explain why ‘bad’ Santa had passed over some of the targeted victims given the opportunity earlier in the film. Yeah, I know, I’m being too nitpicky for a deranged Santa slayer movie.

If you want a pure and simple holiday film, go watch It’s a Wonderful Life. If you like your festive season entertainment a little on the bloodier side, Silent Night will be a perfect stocking stuffer.

Movie Reviews 372 – Split (2016)

December 14, 2018

M. Night Shyamalan has got his groove back.

The writer and director who delivered three genre gems (The Sixth Sense, Signs and what I consider his magnum opus, Unbreakable) between 1999 and 2002, soon faltered with some questionable films and then hit rock bottom in 2010 delivering the incomprehensibly godawful The Last Airbender (based on the animated Avatar television series). From that point on I pretty much dismissed the director and lost interest in whatever projects he had after that. Which explains how Split managed to miss my movie radar until now.

It was actually hearing that the movie Glass, a sequel to Unbreakable, was in production that managed to create a ‘blip’ reappear across my board. And it was while discussing Glass with a friend that I learned that not only did Shyamalan already make Split, itself a semi-sequel to Unbreakable, but that it was actually good.

The very next day I scoured the local online ads and not only found someone selling a DVD-BR combo, but it was only $5 and on my commute home. A few emails and a slight detour later I had the film in my hands and was ready to give it a spin.

The story Kevin Crumb, a man (James McAvoy) with a multi personality disorder encapsulating 23 distinct personalities can be captivating enough, but in this case one is a psychotic killer who captures three young women and holds them in a bunker. All the while he is having sessions with a world renowned psychiatrist (Betty Buckley) who posits that Kevin and a few others like him do not have run-of-the-mill mental health issues but in fact suffer from a newly discovered form she terms Dissociative ID Disorder (DID). Her controversial claim is that DID patients not only alter their persona as they hop from one to another inner personalities, but that the changes can also include physiological changes.

The captives, led by a prior victim of abuse and herself and outcast herself even before the kidnaping (Anya Taylor-Joy) quickly realize that they are dealing with more than one identity and in dealing with each separately try to trick a weaker ‘young boy’ into aiding with their escape. But ‘Kevin’ soon has the girls separated in different areas of the hideout just as his psychiatrist pays an unannounced visit to confirm her darkest fears.

This film is rife with some of Shyamalan’s trademark filming devices. We begin almost the moment the girls are captured but the off camera discussions only add mystery to what is the actual situation the girls are facing. Something ain’t right, but what? We slowly put the pieces together until the final reveal of the real extent of the disorder.

McAvoy is superb, deftly switching personas on the fly, seemingly with ease, and nailing each one. While we don’t get to appreciate each of the reputed identities, the half dozen or so we ‘meet’ are richly defined and interesting all on their own. Taylor-Joy’s character Casey is also multi-facetted in her own way, and leverages her dark past to take charge of her present situation. Shyamalan makes his customary ‘hitchcockian’ appearance in the film, not in a mere cameo but actually playing a small role.

The film, appropriately enough, ends with a teaser for Glass with both Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson sitting in a diner. Rumour has it that Glass will cap the trilogy in a story that blends the cast of Split with the original Unbreakable. It should be released in about a month (projected opening of 19 January) but I can barely wait.

Monstrous Affections – David Nickle (2009)

December 7, 2018

I picked up David Nickle’s horror short collection Monstrous Affections mistakenly thinking he was another author whose work I read in another anthology. Basically I was in the mood for some good horror and wanted to try something other than my ‘go to’ Stephen King pile. While it was a case of mistaken author I’m glad to say the error was a fortuitous one as I enjoyed this collection. I thought that the first entry, The Sloan Men, was easily the best story in the lot and the one story indicative of the great cover art on this book in case you were as curious about that face as I was. (Credit artwork to Erik Mohr).

Here’s a rundown of the stories:

 

The Sloan Men

Meeting your boyfriend’s parents for the first time is always a touchy and nerve fraught affair. Moreso if your boyfriend and his father are actual monsters only you did not know it despite the clues.

 

Janie and the Wind

This Wendigo story is told from the point of view of a rather naive woman made a virtual prisoner on a secluded island by her mate. I did find that the story was creepy at first but loses a bit of its luster towards the end.

 

Night of the Tar Baby

An ex-con has picked up a few tips on mystical powers while in the slammer and raises the power of a Tar Baby to protect his family from evil. But as some members of the family soon find out, a Tar Baby does not discriminate between outside threats and those in the family itself. What is a Tar Baby you ask? Must read this to find out and you won’t be disappointed.

 

Other People’s Kids

Fezkul is a devilish imp that only children can see and who readily do his bidding. Even murder. But Sam is on the cusp of adulthood and this borderline state gives him the rare opportunity to save a popular roadside grill and park from Fezkul. A literal coming of age story that includes a bit of lighthearted comedy.

 

The Mayor Will Make a Brief Statement and Then Take Questions

A one-pager story on the hit-and-run death of a child. But buried (deep) in the mayor’s soliloquy is a subtle hint of unstated paranormal horrors.

 

The Pit-Heads

A tale of life friendship among a group of artists and how embracing vampirism may be beneficial to honing their craft while redefining ‘lifelong’. The pit-heads referred to by the title are the mine entrance sheds in which the take refuge.

 

Slide Trombone

Head scratching tale of a doped up Led Zeppelin cover band that can’t figure out how and why they have a trombone player. And then there’s the trout swimming in the bathtub. I did say it was a head scratcher.

 

The Inevitability of Earth

Another very odd tale of a young dreamers anguished life mission to find his long gone grandfather who just “flew away” one day while his family tries to keep him well … grounded.

 

Swamp Witch and the Tea-Drinking Man

This is clearly a fantasy story of a so called ‘swamp witch’ who has snatched and held a town in time. But her time has come when the ‘Tea-Drinking’ man has made the same bargain with the devil. Fantasy has never been my cup of Tea so it’s not surprising that this was my least favorite story.

 

The Delilah Party

When a sex cult tries to set up an emotionally unstable young boy for a tryst with his long time infatuation, they get more than they bargained for.

 

Fly in Your Eye

Single pager exactly fitting the title with a little shocker for an ending.

 

Polyphemus’ Cave

When a renown gay actor returns home upon receiving a telegram of father’s death the ensuing investigation on the exact circumstances include a circus, a soul-sucking giant cyclops and a circus. Guaranteed to be the strangest coming out story you’ll ever read.

 

The Webley

This would fit nicely in a Stephen King collection as it is a story about some kids in a small town, a gun (the titular Webley) and a dog. My only problem was the too abrupt ending as I really wanted more.

Movie Reviews 371 – Billy Jack (1971)

November 30, 2018

Billy Jack was something of cult favorite film that was made by political activist and auteur Tom Laughlin after him seeing firsthand the treatment and plight of American First Nations. Made on a shoestring budget and bandied about across a number of studios over a lengthy production period, the film would eventually be released as an independent film by the writer, director and star Laughlin himself. While the film ended up being a great success from a return point of view, sadly the realities depicted by the subject matter in the film still hold true today.

The film has Billy Jack (Laughlin), a half indian, Vietnam veteran Green Beret as the self imposed defender of a progressive “Freedom School” being run by his girlfriend Jean (Delores Taylor, Laughlin’s real life wife) against redneck mustang poachers from the nearby town. The poachers are led by Stuart Posner, the town heavy who has most of the town council in his pockets but even worse than the elder Posner is his son Bernard (David Roya) who despises the natives even more than he hates his own father.

The troubles really begin when the free living daughter of a Sheriff’s deputy – a man working on the side for Posner – gets pregnant and, after a violent confrontation with her father, seeks refuge at the school. While the law and town council suspect the natives of harbouring the girl their searches prove fruitless. Meanwhile Billy, as protector of the school, has run-ins with Stuart, his henchmen, and son Bernard on several occasions.

But when Bernard crosses the line and commits atrocious crimes against a number of people connect with the school including Jean, Billy’s rage gets the best of him and he deals with Bernard such that he will never be a problem again. This leads to a standoff with Billy held at the school while surrounded by law officials. But Billy is not one to give up easily and as the minutes tick by he serious weighs the idea of going out in a final blaze of glory instead of being imprisoned for years to come at the hands of a corrupt system.

To be fair this movie is really rough around the edges which makes watching cringe worthy at times. The largely young cast provide mostly painful cardboard cutout acting. Several scenes are just the kids acting out nearly incomprehensible skits (including a very young Howard Hesseman) which are not only boring but excruciatingly long. While Laughlin himself is not that bad, even his character is remains fairly unidimensional. More troubling is the oft cited mixed messages dispensed by the film. Jean is the die-hard pacifist at odds with Billy whose good intentions are backed up by high flying kicks and the agility to take on mobs of assailants. One of the few respectable town residents is none other than the sheriff, who is indeed a laudable lawman, but in the end he too is forced stand against Billy. Even the detestable Bernard is first introduced as a gun wary boy who is one of the few willing to confront to his forceful father, only to become worse than him. While the film intends to side with the kids (the school in fact been portrayed as a hippie commune that were popular in the day), they sometimes come off as obnoxious and biased as the rednecks.

But there is plenty of good stuff to enjoy as well. The motorcycle riding Billy shows off some remarkable (if exaggerated) combat skills that captured audiences that had yet to be exposed to the martial arts films that would soon flood the market – mainly thanks to the talents of Bruce Lee – and give rise to the Kung Fu mania that followed. The scene where Billy confronts Stuart Posner – declaring “I’m going to take this right foot and I’m going to whup that side of your face. And you know something? There’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” – and then doing exactly what he said, is a pure classic. There is also a memorable scene when Billy takes some time out for a ritual which entails going head to head with a rattler and having to endure it’s bites in order to become ‘brother of the snake’.

Technically, this is a sequel to Laughlin’s film The Born Losers in which the Billy Jack character first appeared and the success of this one also led to the inferior The Trial of Billy Jack. It’s hard for me to say that this is still a must see film for either those interested counterculture media or martial arts devotees. But I certainly got a kick out of it. Many, many kicks to sure.

Movie Reviews 370 – Seconds (1966)

November 24, 2018

I vaguely recall reading about the movie Seconds in some older Science Fiction film books over the years and also have run across it being discussed in some Horror forums but have not had the chance to watch it until now. Now having seen it I can understand how it loosely fits both genres and in fact can very much be considered a psychological thriller, and even more surprisingly an art house film as well. This one certainly fits many niches and delivers the goods for each one.

A well-to-do elder businessman finds himself nearing the end of a fruitful career but in loveless marriage and with nothing to show for his life when he gets a call from a supposedly dead friend with an interesting offer. It is the opportunity to drop out of life completely (including a having a faked death) and to undergo a radical rejuvenating surgical procedure that will transform him into a young man again, ready to start life anew.

At first Art Hamilton (John Randolph) is incredulous that Charlie (Murray Hamilton) is indeed his deceased friend an must be convinced. But once satisfied he enters a nefarious world of secret messages, covert transport, hidden offices, and a secretive corporation behind it all

While still a bit reluctant, he buys into the hard sell by “Mr. Ruby” (Jeff Corey) and after a prolonged session of surgeries and physical therapy emerges as Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), complete with a fabricated background and home in an isolated resort to slowly integrate into his new life. He finds it difficult at first but a chance encounter on a beach with a vibrant young woman (Salome Jens) slowly changes his mind. Maybe he can adapt and enjoy life again? All goes well until a party is held at the resort where a little too much alcohol has Tony slipping out a few things about his past, breaking a cardinal rule of those who are ‘seconds’. Suddenly everyone there turns on him, but he is able to slip out and make a run.

The corporation eventually tracks him down and after a lot of discussion agree to another ‘rebirth’. But as he is shuffled into a room of men that seem to just pass the time, he runs into Charlie who is also waiting for another rebirth himself. Only when Tony is told that he is about to get his turn again does he discover one of the conditions that the corporation needs to address in order to perform their ‘service’. And Tony fits the bill.

This film has the semblance of a prolonged old Twilight Zone episode complete with some drawn-out ambiguity and mystery and ending with a crashing finale. All that but with the higher production values and a few other differences. One glaring difference is the abundant group nudity in a particular Woodstock-esque scene (hey, it was the sixties) that ends up being a turning point for Tony. There certainly was never any of that in the Twilight Zone!

Story aside, the cinematography is mesmerizing with lots of lens effects and the use of innovative, but highly appropriate angle shots and lighting. Some may get a kick seeing Will Geer (grandpa on The Waltons) and Richard Anderson (Oscar from The Six Million Dollar Man) in small but critical roles.

A top notch, somewhat obscure Science Fiction thriller that is quite riveting. Despite the title truly a timeless movie.

Movie Reviews 369 – A Tale of Two Sisters (2003)

November 16, 2018

A Tale of Two Sisters is a Korean horror that takes the concept of flipping a story on it’s head to extremes. Much like Shyamalan’s The Sixth Sense where a pivotal point of the story has the viewer reexamining everything that they had seen prior to that event because the point of reference changed the entire story, this film does it not once, but twice.

It begins two sisters, Soo-mi (Lim Soo-Jung) and Soo-yeon (Moon Geun-young), arriving at home from some unexplained long term visit elsewhere. Soo-mi is the defiant, feisty one who clearly hates her stepmother (Yum Jung-ah) while being protective of her younger, quiet and simple headed sister. The stepmother lashes at Soo-mi almost as soon the girls arrive, trying to assert herself as the matriarch ruler of the house but Soo-mi will have none of it and stands her own ground defiantly. Standing between them is the father (Kim Kap-su) who has lost control over the household to the bickering women.

But the battles are interspersed with odd events indicating that something is not right. There are hints of abuse of Soo-yeon and the stepmother rants crazed stories at a family gathering where everyone else are clearly not at ease. But who is crazy, Soo-mi or the stepmother and more importantly why? Even after the first big reveal there are many unanswered questions that remain including the full extent of the horror that put the family in this dysfunctional state.

The movie does use some of the tropes of K-Horror (and J-Horror for that matter) that we’ve become familiar with over the last decade or so (the long hair hiding the girl’s faces, stark flashbacks, etc) but this is mostly new ground filmmaking with a powerful supporting story. Low on gore relying on the psychological, the finale is brilliant and puts everything into perspective.

This is the first feature by director Kim Jee-Won that I’ve seen only having been exposed to his segment in Three Extremes II before, but if this film is any indication of his talents I will certainly be on the lookout for more. I have the Tartan Asia Extreme 2 disc DVD box set which is filled with extra interviews by the entire cast, but as much I as hoped the film plot would be elaborated on, none of the extra features are all that interesting and they can be skipped. But do watch this movie.

Movie Reviews 368 – Gaslight (1944)

November 9, 2018

You hear the term gaslighting more and more these days. While in a manner it has been around ever since people have lied and manipulated one another, the term now sadly applies to political parties and partisan groups subjecting it to the masses.

According to Wikipedia:

 “Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or in members of a targeted group, making them question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s belief.”

If you’ve ever wondered how the word for a turn of the century mode of household illumination became synonymous with deceit and imbalance look no further than the 1944 production of the multi-Oscar film Gaslight directed by George Cukor.

A young London girl is subjected to the murder of her famous opera singer mother when a thief failed to get some jewels they were seeking. Now grown up and living in Italy Paula (Ingrid Bergman) falls for a Gregory Anton (Charles Boyer) a French aristocrat who sweeps her off her feet . The two soon marry and Anton sways Paula into returning to her mother’s house despite her long held revulsion for the house since the murder.

But it was not chance that led her to meeting Gregory and neither was it coincidental that they have moved back to her old home. Anton, seemingly the loving and caring husband, is slowly and deliberately influencing his wife to doubt her sanity while keeping her isolated from prying eyes and ears. His goal, simple enough, is to have her declared insane so that he can get his hands and what the thief wanted all those years ago.

What makes the plot remarkable is the subtlety in which Paula is manipulated, not by elaborate tricks but mostly by minor events and treatment. With the help of the house servant (Angela Lansbury) her husband also maneuvered into being hired – and with whom he was having an affair with – Anton picks up on the slightest opportunity to induce doubt in Paula. While he does stage a few misplaced objects he devilishly creates an entire living environment mimicking a virtual prison in which Paula’s own mind does the most damage to her sanity.

This is a great film from beginning to end and one that the entire cast shines, but just like it’s own plot, the history of the film itself includes a bit of attempted skulduggery. While the film was based on a play named Angel Street,  the initial movie rights where sold to a lower budget studio English studio which made the film four years prior to this version. But when MGM bought the remake rights to make this one, it also attempted to eliminate every trace of the first going so far as trying to get all prints and the negatives destroyed.

Lucky for me that my Warner Home Video DVD includes both versions because word is that the original is not only closer to the original play, but in some ways even superior to this version that has garnered all the accolades over the years.

That’s right. We’ve been gaslit as an an audience.