7 June, 2022 by katelaity
Based on the novel of the same name by Edith Sitwell’s brother Osbert this film was recommended to me after I watched The Clairvoyant and for once the algorithms worked. The description said melodrama, which to me suggested sad sick children and noble sacrifices, but it also said ghost so I suspected that it might be fun and it was. Definitely (Edwardian) gothic, too. It did okay but wasn’t a huge hit when it came out, probably at least in part because cruel box office heartthrob James Mason put on old man makeup to play half a retired couple with Barbara Mullen.
They’ve bought a home of their own to retire in after forty years in the drapery trade in Leeds (a reminder that Mason despite his mellifluous tones grew up in Huddersfield) and can’t quite believe they got such a bargain on this beautiful house in Newborough. Mullen’s Emilie has a suspicion but her husband won’t hear any nonsense. Mullen and Mason are so delightful together, you really believe in them, especially as we gradually learn of the losses they have suffered. Mason is even charming with the dog.
She also hires a companion, more as it’s the thing to do that through any real need, but she’s surprised when a young woman applies (Margaret Lockwood). This Annette says she somehow felt compelled to come there. The two become fast friends and Mason’s Smedhurst looks upon her almost as dotingly as a father. The local young doctor (Dennis Price) is smitten, though his snooty mother sneers at Annette’s halting piano playing — until suddenly she’s overcome by something and starts banging out Chopin with gusto.
There’s a spirit in the house and it’s aiming for Annette — but what does she want? Apart from playing the piano and making the gardener dig up a missing trinket we begin to suspect something more sinister. They have to do some work to uncover a mystery from forty years back. Lockwood, who seems at first a little insipid in the role does a great job of conveying the interactions with the ghost.
There’s mystery, some good spooky moments that rely totally on suggestion, and a wonderful late cameo from a horror legend that is brief but chillingly effective. Great fun. I’ve bookmarked the book, too as it has a great warning: