Sunday, June 22, 2014


Caught Delmer Daves' THE RED HOUSE late last night on Hulu Plus, almost in the spirit of emergency after failing to find anything else acceptable to the two of us. It's a bit overlong, helpless to resist adding loving brushstrokes to secondary characters, but so much of value to savor here... It's not exactly a horror movie, but its mystery and suspense are of a high order, conveyed within an unusual but effective atmosphere that is hard to peg, somewhere between a Lewton RKO and a Disney Hardy Boys serial. (It's beautifully shot by DP Bert Glennon, who had earlier pictures like the 1933 ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Sternberg's THE SCARLET EMPRESS and John Ford's STAGECOACH under his belt.) Had this movie been presented to me without credits, I would have thought it was the work of Jacques Tourneur, if only for its deceptively mild, delicate handling of young romantic leads Lon McCallister and Allene Roberts -- whom I remembered from a couple of ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN appearances, notably the (again) similarly pitched episode "The Haunted Lighthouse." The scenes between a very young but quickly ripening Rory Calhoun and Julie London look ripped from the pages of LIL' ABNER and have the snapping, lusty vitality of early Russ Meyer -- in fact, the entire film, while superficially wholesome, contains a surprising number of fairly forthright sexual references in its dialogue; this serves to foreshadow the romantic obsession/mental ilness that's finally revealed as the prime motivator behind the mystery, which builds to a surprising, semi-giallo intensity given Edward G. Robinson's somewhat fetishized dread "The Red House."

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