1953 creepfest with Richard Carlson becoming the new Baronet at his family’s remote and primitive Scottish castle.
Slick and dapper gent Richard Carlson leaves behind a fiance (Veronica Hurst) and a lifestyle partying on the Riviera when he’s summoned after the death of a relative, and becomes the umpteenth Baron of Craven Castle. Seems all the Craven caretakers, men, unmarried and fiercely dedicated to upkeep and honor, die young and not long after moving in. Weeks go by with no word from Carlson, until fiance and her aunt (Katherine Emery) receive a cryptic letter breaking of the engagement but declaring a love that can no longer be, so the puzzled women go to the castle to investigate.
They find Carlson aged incredibly, preoccupied, possessed of a zombie-like demeanour and adamant that they leave and never return. Of course they don’t and despite being locked in their room at night they hear (and almost see) many strange goings-on, shadows of things moving on the other side of the door, shuffling sounds, outsized and elongated staircases, bizarre footprints, books about mutations and monstrosities. You are correct to surmise there’s a secret someone in the upper regions of the castle, and that well manicured elaborate hedge maze in the backyard is used in the dark by said mystery occupant.
Is it a hidden woman, a werewolf, a killer, not human? Let me say that you seriously won’t believe what it is when you see it, more schlocking than shocking, and maybe you’ll be sorely disappointed or laugh out loud but I can imagine 1953 audiences being disturbed, and possibly buying the scientific explanation given in the coda. You truly have to give credit to the filmmakers for successfully building up the atmosphere and suspense and even trying to pull off this kind of monster of the so-bad-it’s-great species. Those filmmakers are director William Cameron Menzies, and producer Walter Mirisch, who gave us this movie in 3D (not the way I watched mind you). This means lots of actors talking into, walking into and gesturing toward the camera, bats flying at your face, a big death defying dance number at a nightclub, and so forth, the effect of which never fails to remind me of John Candy (would you like some more pancakes?). Still and all, I’m a sucker for classic horror, regardless of quality, and this was a really enjoyable discovery. Great support by Michael Pate as an all-knowing, protective butler, plus Hillary Brooke and Robin Hughes.
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