RED HOUSE, THE
(director/writer: Delmer Daves; screenwriter: from the novel The Red House by George Agnew Chamberlain; cinematographer: Bert Glennon; editor: Merrill White; music: Miklos Rozsa; cast: Edward G. Robinson (Pete Morgan), Lon McCallister (Nath Storm), Judith Anderson (Ellen Morgan), Rory Calhoun (Teller), Allene Roberts (Meg Morgan), Julie London (Tibby), Ona Munson (Mrs. Storm), Harry Shannon (Dr. Johnathan Byrne), Arthur Space (The sheriff); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Sol Lesser; United Artists; 1947)
“Has its effective moments.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
The Gothic thriller The Red House is based on the novel by George Agnew Chamberlain and it’s written and directed by Delmer Daves. It’s a moody atmospheric melodrama with a clumsily drawn Freudian framework, as a guilt-ridden farmer, Pete Morgan (Edward G. Robinson), is obsessed with a red house in the woods near his house. It’s where he accidentally murdered the woman he loved when she rejected him and was driven to also murder her husband. Living in constant fear of discovery he has become a self-sufficient recluse on an isolated farmhouse in a serene rural community with his spinster elderly sister Ellen (Judith Anderson) and with Meg (Allene Roberts), the 15-year-old daughter whose parents he murdered but who is unaware of her doting stepfather’s dark secret. Meg has been raised by him ever since she was an infant, and was told her parents ran away. The parents were never located, but the red house holds answers to their disappearance–which is the reason there’s a No Trespassing sign there, as Pete wants no one cutting through the woods to pass the red house. He has even hired surly rifle-toting school drop-out Teller (Rory Calhoun) to keep intruders out.
Meg convinces the wooden-legged Pete to hire her classmate Nath Storm (Lon McCallister) to help out with the farm chores after school. Nath is dating the attractive Tibby (Julie London), who also attends the same high school and is Meg’s close friend. After work Nath does not heed Pete’s warning not to take the short-cut home by the red house, even though Pete tries to scare him with ghost stories and how the area is cursed at night. But the stubborn Nath can’t be stopped from going that route, which raises Pete’s blood pressure and bends him out of shape. Pete has a temper tantrum against Nath which causes a falling out with his daughter, who views the nice boy as a potential boyfriend.
It leads to some sinister happenings, as all the secrets get let out and Pete returns to his old violent ways.
The Red House fails to be much more than a weirdly told tale that has its effective moments, but overall it seems too stagy. It’s a psychodrama threading the fine line between normal and abnormal romantic relationships, that doesn’t say anything meaningful about someone walking on the edge of sanity. It mostly centers around the tormented Edward G. Robinson character losing his grip on reality and becoming increasingly more dangerous. There were some scares, but too much seemed hokey.
Miklos Roza’s eerie score features the theremin (electronic tone generation), an instrument used in many early sci-fi films.
REVIEWED ON 2/5/2005 GRADE: C+