9 March 2008 | mstomaso
Creepy, Disturbing and Off-beat Noir - Not for Kids!
Delmer Daves's The Red House is a gem! But it's not a film for the kids - the film deals with somewhat perverse adult themes in a very psychologically, if not explicitly, realistic manner. The great Edward G. Robinson plays Pete Morgan, a reclusive older gentleman living with his sister (Judith Anderson) and an adopted teenage daughter, Meg (Allene Roberts). Most of the story revolves around Meg's developing romance with Nath (Lon McAllister) - a smart and decent young man who comes to work for Pete. Nath's girlfriend - kind of an erstwhile femme fatale - is played by the lovely Julie London, and it is no surprise to find that as Nath's attention turns to Meg, her attention turns to bad boy "Teller" (Rory Calhoun).
Underneath all the typically teenage romantic dynamics lies several terrible secrets and possibly, something supernatural. All of this will culminate in revealing the secret of a long-forgotten Red House in the woods behind Pete's house.
The acting is excellent. The younger members of the cast are remarkably attractive, an the cinematographer used this to great advantage. Calhoun and London occasionally falter into formulaic acting, but McAllister and Roberts are always exactly where they need to be, and Robinson turns in a typically brilliant performance. Roberts, amazingly, was 18 years old and acting in her first film when she turned in this fantastic, mature performance.
Daves paces the film very nicely. There are relatively few wasted seconds, and the build-up to the climax, and even the epilogue, are barely even noticeable as you are swept away by the increasingly convoluted and disturbing story-line. Lighting, a trademark of Daves and noir in general, is used perfectly in this very nicely shot dark contrast-oriented film. The key to the success of this film, however, is the misdirection of audience sympathies - which is all I will say about the script - to avoid a spoiler.
NOTE: Be willing to spend a few extra dollars to get a good print of this film. Some of the less expensive versions have very poor sound quality - almost unlistenable.
Highly recommended for Robinson fans and non-graphic horror fans. Recommended for noir fans. Not recommended for kids.