It was a rum idea, hiring the author of all those trouser-dropping Whitehall farces to adapt Sheridan Le Fanu's 1864 gothic thriller. The opening shot of a girl's hand brushing aside a cobweb and plucking some berries symbolically encapsulates what's to come, and several other moments in this wildly inconsistent movie suggest that Travers, or someone, was still rooted in the silent era. Its most relishable aspects are the lavishly designed, atmospherically shot interiors, Travers' ear for the comic possibilities of stilted conversation, the naturalness of Jean Simmons as the much-menaced teenage heiress and, for some tastes, Paxinou's fruity performance as a batty governess, swigging her claret straight from the bottle. Lacking a strong director, though, the material never coheres, while Rawsthorne's score and de Marney's lacklustre villain are major liabilities.
Cast and crew
Derrick de Marney