29 July 2014

Crimes at the Dark House (1940)
69 min.
Directed by George King.
With Tod Slaughter, Sylvia Marriott, Hilary Eaves, Geoffrey Wardwell, Hay Petrie, Margaret Yarde, Rita Grant, David Horne, Elsie Wagstaff, David Keir.
Tod Slaughter camps it up in this adaptation of Wilkie Collins' popular Victorian mystery novel The Woman in White.

On a mining expedition in Australia, a sleazy thug (Slaughter) murders his business associate. But luck of all luck! Turns out the dead man was heir to a huge fortune back in Great Britain.

And so, our nefarious anti hero assumes his victim's identity - one "Percival Glyde" - and hotfoots it back to England to claim his wrongful booty.

However, in truth the Glyde estate is massively overdrawn, and to meet his debts, Percival must marry winsome (and wealthy) Laurie Fairlie (Marriott).

To make matters worse, it seems the real Percival had an illegitimate, mentally disturbed daughter who just escaped from an asylum and is intent on offing her diabolical daddy. Wotta web of deceit! It ain't no big deal, though. For Tod Slaughter - England's most charismatic horror star of the 1930s - can handle this complicated mess.

Racking up a body count that would rival any early '80s slasher, Slaughter gleefully strangles, stabs and drowns any obstacle in his way to gaining the ill begotten Glyde bucks.

Slaughter is no Karloff or Lugosi; he lacks a necessary degree of gravitas, due probably to his experience in stage melodramas. But he does possess an undeniable spunk & fiery determinism that's a pleasure to watch. And kudos to the gritty climax that serves this one well.

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