7 July 2013 | AlsExGal
A Gothic little tale set in modern times...
... 1941 that is. It boasts fine photography and a great score. It's part horror tale, part noir. John Raden returns for the funeral of Maxim Raden, his father and owner of all of the mills around town. It's obvious from the remarks of the average citizens outside the cemetery gates that their collective sentiment is good riddance.
Dr. Ben Saunders (Harry Carey) then reveals to John a terrible secret he's been keeping - that 25 years ago he forged a death certificate for John's identical twin brother Paul. Paul had become mentally disturbed and Maxim moved into a hotel in town and kept the insane Paul locked up in a room at Radin mansion with kindly and loyal servant Pompey as his keeper. Paul became disturbed probably due to a head injury received when his father threw him across the room when Paul came to his mother's rescue during one of the beatings Maxim was giving her. What did Dr. Saunders get in return? Maxim Radin endowed his clinic, but with Paul recently turning more violent, both Saunders' psychological and actual burden have become heavier and heavier. John, sent away to school before any of this happened, had no knowledge of any of this up until now.
Well, Paul kills Pompey, escapes his room, and finds some money at his father's grave. (It was unclear to me what money was doing there.) With this money and his misleading mostly gentle child-like demeanor he manages to rent a room in a rooming house and attract the attentions of the landlady's daughter (Susan Hayward as Millie Pickens). Millie teaches Paul to blend in - helps him find new clothes, gets him to shave - and now the town has an unpredictable homicidal maniac in its midst who only acts homicidal when the urge to kill strikes him but doesn't look the least bit out of place. Meanwhile, John Raden cannot convince Saunders to call the police because he doesn't want to lose the clinic he's worked so hard for. Of course the fact that the townspeople think Paul is dead and Paul and John are identical twins will eventually figure into this plot, but I'll let you watch and see how.
Albert Dekker does a great job of playing the dual role of sophisticated good guy John and child-like insane Paul, but it is Susan Hayward as Millie who steals the show. You can never quite tell if she really likes Paul because he's different - not pawing her all of the time - or if she's just after the gifts he can give her after she sees the wad of cash he keeps in his pockets. It's a great early role for her. Harry Carey gets to do more than he usually does late in his career, which were roles that usually entailed playing the wise old good guy. Here he is quite gray and not until the end are you sure just which side of his character will win. For those of you looking for a glimpse of Frances Farmer at work, that's all you'll get - a glimpse. She is barely noticeable as the wife of John Raden.
As for the atmosphere - it's perfect with thunderstorms, poorly lit rooms, cemeteries at night, and Paul's victims all found left with a terrified expression and their hands over their ears. Highly recommended for fans of old style horror. It's a shame this one isn't better known.