In the spirit of Halloween Kristina from Speakeasy and I assigned each other films of a ghastly nature. For those not accustomed to the Mad Movie Challenge, it’s when Kristina and I challenge the other to watch a film we had never seen previously.
This time out I was happy to see she assigned me a James Mason film. I had heard the title but had no idea the film was a ghost story.
Mason under quite a bit of make up is playing a retired gentleman who with his wife Barbara Mullen moves to the English countryside and purchases Bellingham House. It’s a large estate that has been empty for forty years. There’s a secret here.
Into their lives comes Margaret Lockwood to be a companion to Mason’s wife Mullen. There are times when she doesn’t quite feel herself. It’s as if someone is possessing her.
While entertaining some stuffy neighbors, Dennis Price as a young suitor comes into Lockwood’s life. He’s the young Doctor in town. Love is in the air. Over dinner our guests tell Mason and Mullen of the ghost that is believed to haunt the house. “Poppycock!” says our leading man.
The plot picks up speed when a buried locket is uncovered and Mason can’t quite put his finger on the eerie goings on. He makes a gift of it to Lockwood. The inscription, “It is thee my dear I do adore and will my dear for evermore.”
When Lockwood begins to act mysteriously, Mason and Price try to find out the history of the house and the supposed ghost. It turns out a young woman died although there were rumors of murder forty years ago. It seems that the young Doctor who treated her may have been in love with her and she with him. He’s disappeared in time and the fortune went to the caretakers who lost their lives on a sinking ship going to America.
With Lockwood fading fast of a mysterious illness Mason and Doctor Price are running out of time. Wife Mullen is convinced that Lockwood is no longer herself but the young woman from forty years ago. When Lockwood begins to call the doctor’s name from the past they’re sure of it.
Not an outright spooky thriller, more of a Gothic romance. The type I would see my Mother reading when I was a kid.
As the film wound down I could see the end coming. Even though I suspected the solution the hair stood up just a touch on the back of my neck. Then I felt better and smiled at the fadeout.
James Mason was only 36 at the time of this film’s release but was playing an elderly gent. Stooped shoulders and the slow walk. As much as I like Mason he didn’t sell me on the old man act. Perhaps it’s because he looked to be doing just that. Acting. I would have preferred to see him in the Dennis Price role.
As for Price, not a fan. I had a hard time seeing him as young suitor. No fault of his. It’s just that I always picture him as a rather weaselly character or slumming in grade Z Jess Franco productions.
Barbara Mullen as Mason’s wife came off the best. She was only 31 at the time but fared much better with her role of the elderly woman. She had a tenderness that came through.
Then there is beautiful Margaret Lockwood. She has a shine too her when she smiles on camera that lights up the screen. She and Mason would also star this same year in the very entertaining film The Wicked Lady.
The films director was Bernard Knowles. This was his first film behind the camera. Up to this point he was working as a cinematographer on films including some early Hitchcock titles like Jamaica Inn and Sabotage.
For fans of the classic Bride of Frankenstein you’ll be sure to recognize Ernest Thesiger popping in for a pivotal role as the mystery comes together for Mason.
There’s a great line in here that I’ll have to share with my doctor the next time I pay him a visit. I’m in no hurry by the way.
“Doctor’s don’t like ghosts cause they’re the patients that slipped through their fingers.”
This was an entertaining story with a ghostly presence that if given the chance makes for a good rainy night viewing.
Now don’t forget to head over to see what Kristina has been asked to watch for the spooky time of year. It’s the story of the ill fated Merrye family.