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CRY WOLF (director: Peter Godfrey; screenwriters: from the book by Marjorie Carlton/Catherine Turney; cinematographer: Carl Guthrie; editor: Folmar Blangsted; music: Franz Waxman; cast: Errol Flynn (Mark Caldwell), Barbara Stanwyck (Sandra Marshall), Geraldine Brooks (Julie Demarest), Richard Basehart (James Demarest), Jerome Cowan (Sen. Charles Caldwell), John Ridgely (Laidell), Barry Bernard (Roberts, the groom), Paul Stanton (Davenport, lawyer), Patricia White (Angela, maid), Rory Mallinson (Becket, butler), Helene Thimig (Marta, housekeeper); Runtime: 83; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Henry Blanke; Warner Brothers; 1947)
“Creaky old dark house thriller about a woman in peril.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Peter Godfrey directs this creaky old dark house thriller about a woman in peril. Writer Catherine Turney bases it on the book by Marjorie Carlton. It’s one of those psychological dramas where things are not as bad as they seem, except for the script–it’s too absurd to swallow whole. The story never came to life despite its plot twists, but the fine cast is enough reason for staying with this old-fashioned mystery. Errol Flynn takes a part out of character and works well Barbara Stanwyck, a maven when it comes to performing in a noir role.

Sandra Marshall (Errol Flynn) learns in the newspaper obituary column that her husband Jim Demarest (Richard Basehart) died. She mysteriously shows up on the isolated estate of research scientist Mark Caldwell (Errol Flynn) accompanied by Mark’s brother, Senator Charles Caldwell (Jerome Cowan). She informs a mourning and suspicious Mark that she met Jim while in college and they were secretly married for 5 months, without Jim informing the family. They had a deal arranged whereby Jim would advance her $2,000 and after 6 months they would dissolve the marriage (which, if you want my two cents, is pretty hard to believe that they would both enter into such a loveless marriage–all he had to do was lend her the money and keep doing whatever he was doing to her!). Mark is, of course, suspicious of the gold-digger, and has his lawyer check out her marriage certificate and the safety deposit where Jim kept his will–which left the deceased wealthy man’s entire estate to Sandra. Jim’s younger teenage sister Julie (Geraldine Brooks) is kept a virtual prisoner in the house, and is overjoyed with Sandra being a guest in the mansion. She informs Sandra that when her mother and father died, her mother drew up a trust fund making Uncle Mark in charge. The trust fund stipulated that the children couldn’t inherit their wealth until they were thirty. Mark has taken care of them ever since, but Julie complains that he’s using the money to support his lab (which is located in the back of the house and is always locked and off-limits). Julie suspects her overbearing uncle is after their inheritances and is keeping her brother alive as a prisoner on the vast estate grounds and that she’s also in danger, relating how some nights she hears Jim’s voice crying out for help. Sandra believes her when she also hears those screams, and is dissatisfied with Mark’s apparent lie that Julie is only having a nightmare. The servants all are loyal to Mark, and do whatever he tells them.

The story slowly and tediously unravels, and what seemed obvious is no longer, that is, except for those familiar with the workings of this mystery genre. It never caught my interest, not even the twisty solution. But, it gets over solely through the well-acted star performances; and, I loved those horse riding scenes through the woods–very sporting in a upper-class manner.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”