She-Wolf of London
Starring: Don Porter, June Lockhart, Sara Haden, Jan Wiley, Lloyd Corrigan
Directed by: Jean Yarbrough
Scene 01: We start with a blurb over a shot of Big Ben:
Scene 02: We switch our view to Scotland Yard. Within, we meet Chief Constable Latham and Inspector Pierce. Lathan reminds Pierce that he wished to survey the site of a previous attack on a man in the park. We get some background into the strange goings-on in the nearby park. It seems that a man was badly slashed while there at night, and while Pierce insists the man ran into one of many stray dogs plaguing the neighborhood, Lathan insists the assaulted reports he is sure it was not an animal. The victim has claimed that a woman attacked him, managing to slash him across the face. Latan half believes the papers that they have a werewolf on the prowl, but Pierce looks at the papers as being full of garbage.
Scene 03: A buggy carries the policemen to the location of the attack, passing by a gentleman and lady on horseback in the park. Our POV remains with this couple as the police leave the shot, temporarily.
Scene 04: We receive some clumsily delivered exposition to let us know their story. The gentleman and lady are set to be married, but they are in disagreement over when the date shall be. He insists they be married the following week, while she insists it shall be several months hence in December. The horsback ride it to determine the date, based on a race to a pre-determined grove of trees.
Commentary: Though he has offered her a handicap which has been refused, it doesn't seem very fair that he's going to race straddled his horse, while she has to make due in a long dress, sitting side-saddled... be that as it may, the real problem with this scene is the obvious info-dump for the audience's benefit. The information is delivered in one of those, 'I am about to recite a bunch of information that you are already aware of yourself, but just play along' ways which is surely an early sign of a lazy script, and we haven't even gotten into the story proper yet.
Scene 05: The duo race hard, but Barry Lanfield comes out the winner of the contest. When he suggests she should have taken the handicap of 5 lengths he offered, Phyllis Allenby smilingly tells him that she hadn't truly wanted to wait until December anyway. They adoringly kiss.
Commentary: And we're to left wonder why they wasted the audience's time with this whole race then, if it wasn't meant to solve anything. The reason is so that both participants can be near enough to hear the inspector discussing the man's attack. Why they couldn't just be out on a romantic walk, or have the lawyer (Lanfield is a barrister in a prestigious firm run by his father) be representing the victim rather than waste time with this whole romantic horse race is just another weakness of the script....
Scene 06: Law enforcement goes through the crime scene as Latham describes the details of the participants movements as reported by the victim. He again broaches the idea that it could have been a werewolf, just as the victim reported. Pierce poo-poos the idea as ridiculous stories.
They come into a clearing, where our soon-to-be-marrieds are trysting. Lanfield points out that Allenby looks scared, but she puts him off as simply being startled by the voices. The couple move along, now that the romantic spell has been broken by the others.
Latham does some reminiscing about his courting days with his misses, which also involved horseback riding. Pierce turns his mind back to the investigation at hand.
Scene 07: Back with our retreating horsebacked couple, Lanfield points out that Phyllis has grown awfully quiet. She tells him with a smile that she has much on her mind, as she has to put together a wedding in under a week.
He tells her that he doesn't believe that is why she's grown distracted. He asks if the police business has upset her, which she confirms. We find out that her home is very near to the park and with such strange things occurring, it's left her disturbed (we'll find out later that there are no men in the home, adding to her sense of vulnerability).
He asks her if she's buying the sensationalistic news reports of werewolves. There are some jokes regarding the commoner habit of reading 'penny dreadfuls'. The real point of the scene however, is when he tells her she has little to worry about, as she isn't likely to be roaming the park at night.
She worriedly smiles at him with a half-serious, "Not if I can help it"....
Scene 08: We fade cut to the Allenby manor, where a well dressed woman is walking two German Shepherds, who look like they're ready to drag her off her feet and down the block....
This new woman stops an older crone named Hannah, who is the Allenby general help and cook. She's on her way to market.
Commentary: And, ridiculously, despite her peripheral vision and the dogs snarling at nothing on the soundtrack, Hannah pretends to not notice the girl at all until her name is called. This isn't because the woman is stand-offish, or because of tensions between the two women or for any other plot-specific reason as we'll discover - it was just really poor blocking.
With the girl getting the cook's attention, she passes along a note to her. The new girl is Carol Winthrop and we'll discover in the course of things what her relationship is to the Allenby family. Right now, her main concern is seeing to it that a love note is passed along to her secret boyfriend, Dwight Severn.
Unfortunately for Carol, Mrs. Winthrop has seen the note passing and comes out to demand the note from Hannah. At first Hannah tries to play ignorant, but when her position is threatened she turns over the note as demanded, with apologies to Carol.
Mrs. Winthrop's objections to Carol spending any more time on Dwight is that he doesn't have any money. She tells Carol to come along so that she can share some realities with her. And, we get to watch every single footstep of Carol's as she follows her mother, ever so reluctantly.
Scene 09: In the parlor room, Mrs. Winthrop brings up their uncertain future with the upcoming nuptials between Barry and Phyllis. Carol tells her mother that things will go along pretty much as they are, except Phyllis Allenby will change her last name and move into Barry Lanfield's home.
Mrs. Winthrop shares with her daughter that legally speaking, Carol isn't a cousin to Phyllis as she always thought. In fact, she isn't related to the Allenbys in any way. She also shares that she, herself, is also not related to Phyllis. She states that at one time she very nearly married Phyllis' father.
Commentary: Jan Wiley's acting here is really stiff, mannered and awkward, too. It's really noticable because Sara Haden as Martha Winthrop is acting naturally, but it appears that Jan's choice with Carol is to try to get across that she's 'upper crusty' instead of just acting out her scene. Her movements with her arms and her line delivery just comes across as practiced, rather than natural.
Martha tells Carol about her own history with being in love. It seems Martha was in love with a pauper, too, like her daughter. And though Reginald claimed he'd never get over it, a year after her marriage to Carol's father, Reggie married Phyllis'. Later, after Carol's father died, leaving Martha nearly penniless and with a small child to raise, she had to come back to Reginald and request a job. She became house keeper at the manor. Carol is shocked (in her badly acted manner) at this revelation -- she had always thought that their house was, you know, theirs. But in fact, it belongs to Phyllis through the Allenby estate as she is the only legitimate heir to the estate left behind by her parents.
Scene 10: Outdoors, on of the dog has started barking madly. In the yard, the dog is confronting Phyllis as she stands calling for Barry and cowering. Martha comes out to gain control of the dog, mentioning that it is so gentle around everyone but her (and one would hope, any strangers who come calling in the middle of the night). She tells Phyllis that the dog wouldn't bark at her so, if she'd stop being so timid around them. She encourages her to pat the dog, but it growls at her and she cowers some more.
Martha finally takes the animal away. She apologizes for being such a coward to Barry in the most wimptastic voice she can whine in.
Scene 11: That evening, the dogs are making an awful racket, joined by seemingly every dog in the neighborhood. In her room, Phyllis looks out from her window, obviously full of nerves. She gets a lantern out of the closet and lights it, to hang outside of her window.
Behind her, Martha comes into her room in her nightgown. She apologizes for startling her "niece". When she joins her at the window to peer down into the yard, she comments on the lantern Phyllis has hung outside her window. At first Phyllis tries to pretend she did it to calm the dogs, but Martha tells her she's quite aware of the superstition that a lantern can keep evil spirits at bay when the dogs are howling and carrying on.
When Martha tries to bring the lantern in, Phyllis throws such a mild fit, it may as well not be called one. Nevertheless, she apologizes a moment later for being short, telling her aunt that she is feeling all on edge, between the park attack and the dogs making racket ceaselessly (and it is ceaseless, too - the foley artist went crazy). Dear, supportive aunt Martha offers to fetch her a glass of warm milk to calm her nerves.
Scene 12: As Martha makes her way downstairs (where we're able to watch every single step), Hannah espies on her from the foyer for no obvious reason.
Meanwhile, in her bed, Phyllis is being on edge and listening to the dogs out in the yard still carrying on.
Unfortunately for Carol, she's chosen now to sneak down the grand staircase dressed as little red riding hood. Martha comes from the kitchen before her willful daughter can make it out the front door for a rendevous with her romantic interest and sends her back to her room. Hannah has turned into her room by this time, but she watches this go down from her room... busy body....
Scene 13: Some time later, in the fog-enshrouded park, two bobbies are patrolling. Conversation turns to the racket the neighborhood dogs are making and the fact that there are strays all over the neighborhood. Once bobby mentions that they say a howling dog means that death is close by. The other deadpans that if so, half of London must be on death's door.
A new bay splits the noisy evening, however, this one apparently a woman screaming. One of the bobbies observes it sounded like the scream of a child (uh, okay - informed attribute of a scream).
Scene 14: Back at the Allenby estate, a woman dressed in a gown and wrap comes in from the direction of the park (presumably). Moments later, one of the dogs jumps over the wall, following her back in from wherever she has been spending her night. We get a glimpse of her face, but not enough to tell who it is.
What we do know is that she goes into the Allenby Manor, and that for some reason, the number of dogs they have seems to switch often between one and two - the other dog mysteriously vanishing for some scenes.
Commentary: You'd also think that the German Shepherd would be involved in some way - trained to rip people apart, or barking at the werewolf, or in some way playing a role in the denouement of the plot. That is because you make sense and know that you don't make a big deal out of the presence of something and then have it play no part in the story, whatsoever. You are a better plotter than the scripters we're dealing with here.
Scene 15: The next morning, our treacly heroine awakens to discover dried blood on her hands. In addition to this, the hem of her dressing gown is wet as if she'd been in wet grass and there is mud caked all over her slippers. She's mulling over this disturbing development, when Aunt Martha comes in, wishing her a good morning. What timing!
"Why Phyllis, what's the matter," she asks, stupidly not noticing the caked on mud of the slippers that Phyllis is holding. I'll leave it up to your keen eye for mysteries whether Aunt Martha is the most unobservant woman in London, or if she's suspiciously obtuse.
Phyllis tells her that something has finally happened, to which observation Martha asks 'whatchu talkin' 'bout crazy bitch?' Not really in those words, but it would have been funny if she had....
"Look", Phyllis directs her attention to her muddy slippers that she's been practically holding in front of Martha's face this whole time... Martha is shocked - SHOCKED, I tell you - to realize belatedly that the slippers are caked in mud.
When Aunt Martha points out she couldn't have been out the night before - in direct counter to all of the overwhelming evidence, Phyllis insists she's falling victim to the Allenby curse after all these years of waiting.
Martha consoles Phyllis, telling her that there isn't a curse and she isn't suffering from insanity. She tells her she must come down to breakfast and pretend that nothing has happened. We're left to wonder why she doesn't wonder as to where the blood came from and why all the mud if Phyll has been in her room all night.
Commentary: Actually, in retrospect, this is a nice bit and I'll explain why later.
Scene 16: At the dining table, Phyllis is distracted, and Hannah mentions that she doesn't look well. Martha intervenes, telling the cook to run along and fetch her daughter's breakfast as she's sure to be down any moment. After she leaves, Phyllis asks if Hannah could suspect anything, which Martha poo-poos, as well she should. There isn't any logical reason to think Hannah knows anything at all, and when Phyllis remarks that she looked at her so strangely, I want to slap her and tell her to stop acting weird and she wouldn't get weird looks. Unfortunately, Martha doesn't do this - just telling her instead to pull herself together.
Carol comes in reading the paper and laments that a small boy has been found dead. 'Ripped apart by a wild animal' we're told. Martha glances over worriedly at Phyllis who naturally acts as suspiciously as she possibly can. When she won't stop talking about it, Phyllis gives an exclamation and collapses at the table. Martha and Carol help her from the room.
Commentary: Forget about anyone being ripped apart, too. As we'll note future attacks, while there was no doubt damage done to the boy, I find it highly unlikely he was 'ripped apart'. I will give them kudos for being willing to kill a child though, even off screen.
Scene 17: Later that day, Phyllis' fiance, Barry, comes to call on her. Carol invites him in to wait while she checks with Phyllis to see if she's too ill for a visitor.
Scene 18: Meanwhile, upstairs, Phyllis is convinced that she killed the child, while Martha continues to insist she couldn't have had anything to do with such things. When Carol comes in to announce Barry's arrival, Phyllis asks that he be sent away. She tells her aunt and cousin that she never wants to see Barry again, but Martha insist she'll change her mind after a good rest and gives her a libation to relax her.
Scene 19: Fading out on Phyllis, we come in on Hannah out hanging laundry. Barry comes up to her, having snuck onto the grounds, to ask her about Phyllis. We find out here that he's been kept away for two days, now. He's terribly worried about his fiance. Hannah directs him to the garden, where she's getting some sun. When Barry mentions that Mrs. Winthrop has only just told him that she was sleeping, an excuse he's received before, Hannah shares that she thinks Mrs. Winthrop is peculiar - though why she thinks so, I'm sure I don't know.
Scene 20: In the garden, Barry confronts Phyllis about her avoiding him. She tells him that she isn't able to talk about and rushes back into the house, but he follows her. As she rushes upstairs she passes Aunt Martha and asks that Barry be sent away.
Aunt Martha is all sympathy for Barry, but tells him he shouldn't push the issue just now. Poor Phyllis is so sensitive and she doesn't want to be seen when she's feeling so ill. Barry tersely leaves, unsatisfied.
As he leaves, he meets Carol and invites her for a buggy ride so he can discuss Phyllis' condition. Naturally she sees all of this from her bedroom window and immediately grows even more glum.
Scene 21: That night, the dogs are again barking up a storm (obviously noise ordinances were rather lax in early 1900's London). Chief Inspector Latham calls on the house, where he speaks to Hannah. He is enquiring about who lives in the house and about the dogs. Hannah complains that they're viscious brutes (informed attribute of dogs) and keep her awake all night with their barking and carrying on. Her diatribe is cut short by the appearance (very suddenly - Hannah surely must have seen her approach while she was bitching, even though it appears she didn't) of Aunt Martha, who gives her a 'shut your mouth' look and dismisses her.
All of the neighborhood dogs are suspect because of the attacks in the park. Aunt Martha immediately offers to get rid of them if the police so order, but he tells her that wasn't his intent. He simply wanted to make sure they weren't allowed to roam around at night. Martha confirms that they're locked in the garden most of the time (which would seem to limit their effectiveness as guard dogs, especially since they seem to bark at nothing all night, but what do I know).
The police chief answers her questions about the murder of the boy in the park by saying they suspect an animal... or a person... brilliant deduction! We are now relatively sure that a killer shrub is not responsible. He nearly shares his werewolf theory, but covers unconvincingly that it may be a madman, or woman.
Commentary: This scene is problematic, as far as acting goes. Latham's near telling of his werewolf theory is so ham-handed, he just looks like a superstitious dolt. And Martha is so painfully mannered that if he was any kind of policeman, his spider-sense should be buzzing right now.
Scene 22: Later (or at the same time) Phyllis is in her room, in bed, again. She's tossing and turning and listening to the constant noise of the dogs (seriously, these are the most ill-mannered mutts ever - I can't believe that the neighbors aren't demanding that they be brought in or taken away). She gets out of bed and almost puts the lantern in the window again, before forcing herself not to give in to superstition. Instead she goes to her mirror and looks for any signs of changing.
She's just putting cotton in her ears to block out the dogs' barking and howling, when Cousin Carol comes in. She tries to draw out of Phyllis what she feels is wrong lately. She tells her about the ride she took with Barry and how they're both convinced that whatever is going on is more than just noisy dogs upsetting her.
Phyllis refuses to divulge anything and Carol leaves, reminding her that she and Barry both have broad shoulders more than capable of being there for her to cry on, if she should change her mind....
Commentary: This short scene is actually pretty nice. I like Carol's warm humor here and the fact that she's so upfront about her ride with Barry so there can be no 'Carol wants to steal my fiance' drama involved (even though that is what the script tried to imply earlier).
Scene 23: Aunt Martha arrives shortly after with coffee, which Phyllis requested. She tells her that she really thinks rest would do her more good, but Phyllis is determined not to leave the house that night. She intends to stay up all night.
Once she leaves, Phyllis takes the added step of locking the door from within and placing the key into a small pot on a shelf.
Scene 24: In the meantime, Latham joins the bobbies they've called in to patrol the park all night. Naturally, there is a healthy ground fog. Latham asks the Chief Constable about his theory of what is going on in the park, and again brings up him insane-sounding werewolf theory. This earns him a look from the Constable. The Constable is going with wild animal or stray dog, Latham tells him that Inspector Pierce believes the same.
Scene 25: From the Allenby Manor, we again see the cloaked woman. She is leaving the premises. Once again, the dogs go over the wall and follow her.
Scene 26: Out in the foggy park, Latham is, naturally enough, wandering around completely on his own in the middle of the thick greenery. He runs into the Constable again, who is smartly partnered up. They exchange dialog - the Constable believes once they're done rounding up the stray dogs wandering the parks, the attacks will stop. Latham isn't sure (because he's still on is pet werewolf theory). Latham wanders off on his own again, leaving the Constable to opine to his partner that the little guy is balmy.
Scene 27: Latham either spots or hears the woman from Allenby Manor wandering through the bushes (the editing here is sloppy, so it's hard to determine just what caught his interest). Clumsily, the woman is now behind him - or another woman is behind him - I'll explain this in a minute. The point is that we can very clearly see that the suspect sneaking up on Latham is none other than Aunt Martha. Her facial features are quite clear and she looks nothing like our heroine - oh, and she doesn't look like a werewolf either.
Latham finds himself under attack, with snarling dog noises. The woman quickly withdrawals a moment later. It appears that she's attacked him by raking him with her nails, but as we're about to discover, she must have a weapon on her....
Now, a bit late, the woman is careful to keep her face hidden - even though the audience now already knows it's Aunt Martha. Latham stumbles through the shrubbery calling for help. His throat and face has been torn open (no way did old Aunt Martha do that with her nails).
Latham has just enough time to share that the wolf woman has done him in to the Chief Constable, before he dramatically expires to the ground.
Commentary: I can only think here that Aunt Martha has trained the dogs (in a very, very short amount of time, too) to follow her out into the park, so that they can snarl and make attack sounds while she's attacking people with a hand rake. That is what the wounds on Latham most make me think of. And then, when she returns home, the dogs return as well. The pooches are clearly not part of her attacks - on the other hand, she doesn't let the dogs out after her - they jump over a wall to follow, so that makes zero sense. I mean, even less sense than having the dogs follow her to make snarling noises in an effort to trick her victims into thinking she's a wolf woman. I can only think that she isn't deliberately killing, or there'd be no one to spread the werewolf myth that she is relying on Phyllis to think she's becoming. And, there is no way that Aunt Martha is making those savage dog sounds as she's attacking Latham.
Here, I also want to go back to Latham in the wood, too. Later we'll find that Aunt Martha isn't the only one wandering around the park at night. So is her daughter, Carol, who sets up secret rendevous with her boyfriend, the penniless artist. Now, you may wonder if they aren't setting up Carol as a possible werewolf, too, except when the woman figure is clearly stalking Latham, the camera helpfully catches Aunt Martha's face, so this isn't the case. But back to Latham's stalking... here is what I'm assuming with the bad editing: Latham talks to the Chief Constable and then rather ineptly wanders off into the thick woods in his business suit and with no partner or weapon other than his umbrella for protection, this despite his personal belief that it may be a werewolf doing the killings.
He spots Carol on her way to her hook up with her artist boyfriend. In the fog, he temporarily loses her. But, as he's tracking Carol, he's spotted by Aunt Martha who notices he's by himself in a secluded spot and ergo a good victim. He stops to peer through the fog and to listen for Carol's movements through the shrubbery and leaves so he can catch up with her and find out who it is and what she's doing out there. Martha takes his hesitation as her chance and attacks, probably with a pronged gardening tool. The dogs she has with her (that we don't see since they hopped over the wall... but nevertheless...) are trained to make snarling noises on command. They do this from offscreen. She withdraws and the dogs quickly leave with her (even though, again, we don't see them). Latham is left to think his werewolf theory has been vindicated, but he dies, anyway because of the throat wound. Nevertheless, he's able to share the information that they're looking for a woman.
None of this would be a bad development, if only they'd taken care to hide Aunt Martha's face better. We would have been left with three viable suspects: Phyllis, Martha and Carol - but it is highly likely that Martha would be discounted as the 'wolf woman' because of her age. We probably wouldn't suspect Phyllis of actually being behind the killings because she's the whiny heroine. But, we could easily have been led to think that it is Carol who is setting up her cousin. But, they don't bother. Now, the rest of the movie is going to be about us wondering how Aunt Martha is going to get caught. We don't even have a motive to guess at - she's already spoiled that by her confession to Carol that they're not related and ergo at the complete mercy of Phyllis and her soon to be husband. Add to that, her obvious fear of falling back into poverty because of her previous marriage and we have a clear motive for driving Phyllis to think she's insane... and a werewolf/murderess.
Now, back to the nice bit I mentioned in Scene 15's commentary: Now that we know Martha is the hack-n-slasher, I like her truthfully assuring Phyllis that she isn't the killer and isn't crazy. When we reach the section of the movie it puts a nice twist on the consoling the distraut heroine scene above.
Scene 28: The next morning, Martha comes into Phyllis' room, finding her splayed across her bedspread. When she opens the curtains, Phyllis wakes up and asks her how she could have gotten in. Remember, she locked the bedroom door to begin her all night vigil.
Aunt Martha smilingly tells her the door wasn't locked. Further, she 'notices' that there is a hand rake near the bed.
Commentary: Ah, I guessed the weapon correctly. Yay, me.
Phyllis, naturally, goes into a hissy fit over this incriminating garden tool being found in her room, where she clearly has no memory of bringing it. Martha further helpfully points out that her dress is torn and muddy and her shoes are again caked with mud. Before Martha can do more than act (since we know now that this is nothing but pretend since the whole killer was just given away) disturbed at the discovery, there is a knock at the door.
She tells Phyllis to 'compose yourself' as she stuffs the evidence under the bed (although, why she doesn't immediately phone the police and turn her in for being cuckoo-nutso at this point, I can't figure - except, of course, the movie is too short at this point). It's Carol who is there to inform Phyllis that Barry has come to take the girls riding. Naturally, Phyllis is in no mood for company and tells Carol to tell him she isn't up to seeing him. As Carol exits the room, she helpfully informs them that a police inspector had been murdered the previous night in the park. Phyllis insists to Martha that she's the killer.
Phyllis tries to get up to go to a doctor to seek help, but Martha tells her she'll end up in an asylum. She insists that Phyllis allow her to assist her.
Scene 29: In a fade, we join Barry and Carol horseback riding with 'soap opera music' in the background. They're riding in the park, and Carol spots Pierce investigating the site of Latham's death.
Commentary: And with all of these mysterious murders in the park (especially following the little boy's murder) I find it highly ridiculous to suggest that Carol would continue sneaking out in the middle of the night through the heavily wooded park to meet her paramour. But, that is exactly what we'll see the twit do, later.
Apropo of entirely nothing to do with Carol's bringing up the horrible murder of the Scotland Yard detective, Barry whines about not being able to see Carol, even though he just knows that he could get what is wrong with her out of her if he could just speak with her. But, Aunt Martha has been playing cock-block, barring him from 'disturbing' his fiance. Carol reminds him that he's a man, and ergo, has a perogative to overrule a woman. (Hey, it's the movie's opinion, I'm just reporting!)
Scene 30: Barry arrives sometime later, after Carol and his ride (she's already back at the house and he's changed into a suit). Aunt Martha helpfully points him toward Carol, but he informs her that he's there to take Phyllis for a ride in the country. And, this time he won't be taking no for an answer, because of that whole 'man' thing.
Martha insists that Phyllis will refuse to go with him, but we fade cut to her in a buggy with Barry....
Scene 31: Barry provokes a few instances of smiles from Phyllis and believes that she's perking up, but she soon turns dour again. He insists that she share with him what is wrong as he is her husband-to-be. She now informs him that she won't be marrying him after all, that she simply can't (engaged and dumped in less than a week - sucks to be Barry!). At first, she refuses to tell him anything about why she's had a sudden about-face, but he guesses that she's concerned about the Curse of the Allenbys (you remember that opening scrawl, right?) and bringing it down on him.
Blah, blah, 'curse of the wolves, just superstition, I'm not so sure', blah blah.
Commentary: This scene gives me a headache, and it has nothing to do with the soapy dialog and the acting is fine. It's the back projection. Through this whole scene, no matter which way the camera is pointed, the background is doing a crazy jitter. It's like our two lovebirds are in an earthquake and aren't noticing that everything is shaking around them. It's distracting from what we're supposed to be focused on (although, since the dialog isn't exactly riveting, that isn't a very hard task).
Anyway, Phyllis shares that since childhood after her parents went to the great hereafter, she's dreamed of living another life. She remembers practicing pagan rituals and taking on the form of the wolf to go hunting with them. He poo-poos all of this as the imagination of a child having vivid dreams based on family stories she's heard.
Commentary: And, since this is about a woman being driven insane by her not-really-an-Aunt, all of this talk about past lives goes nowhere. It's exactly as Barry says and nothing more, so don't get excited. Actually, this movie was a really stupid choice to include in The Wolf Man Legacy Collection. It has nothing to do with werewolves, at all, except for Latham's fixation and Martha's manipulations of the Allenby myths. In and of itself, the movie can't be docked for not being a werewolf movie, but Universal should be slapped for putting it in this collection.
Scene 32: Late that night, Pierce has made a return to the story, since Latham can't do all the work anymore. He takes personal charge of the bobbies patrolling the park. Due to the emergency the coppers have been issued sidearms. They're given leave to shoot anyone that doesn't cooperate after a single command to halt and present themselves.
Scene 33: And, here we have stupid, foolish, suicidal Carol leaving the Allenby residence to wander into the park to meet what's-his-name barely mentioned oh-so-long-ago. Outside of the back gate, hidden behind a shrub is Barry. Why he's suspicious enough of Phyllis' breakdown to be hanging outside her back door is unexplained. She certainly never brought up the possibility that she was sleep-killing in the park at night. I don't know what he thinks he was going to discover just watching the rear of the house. I guess it's a good thing that a) Carol had a date to get to, b) that for going into a park where there has already been several killings, Carol remains blithely unafraid to not look over her shoulder and c) that the dogs weren't in the garden where they've been hanging out through this whole movie and ergo can't alert everyone that he's stalking about.
Scene 34: Barry briefly loses Carol in the fog, but runs into the constables. They question his reasons for being out in the park at such an hour. As Barry is waylaid, and Carol is making her way toward her beau, said boyfriend is waiting on a park bench - apparently having not been noticed by those dozens of roving bobbies. I guess I'm gonna have to page up and find out this twit's name (Do you happen to recall that a police inspector was just murdered in this park, you effing idiot?! Is there no coffee shops or pubs in London to meet Carol?)
Dwight! That's his name - okay, let us continue.
So, Dwight is sitting on the bench as a female figure approaches from behind... well actually from the side, but since Dwight suffers the common ailment of having a lack of hearing and peripheral vision, she's still able to sneak up on him. I'm sure I won't shock you when I tell you it isn't Carol.
Commentary: I'll also point out that the identity of his attacker is kept hidden through this whole thing, despite the fact that it was already let out of the bad earlier when THEY SHOWED US MARTHA'S MUG!
So, Dwight gets attacked. I'll just assume that Martha already knew of her daughter continuing to sneak out at night, that she followed her to this bench before, and that this is the regular meeting spot for her daughter's paramour, so she knew just where to go to kill him.
Scene 35: The Chief Constable, his partner and Barry all hear the familiar sounds of the dogs snarling, which no human being could possibly make even though we don't see the dogs in evidence, again. They rush toward the sounds of a man struggling.
They find Dwight on the ground, unhurt, but startled.
Commentary: In a strangely effective scene, we also see his attacker (WHO WE ALREADY KNOW IS MARTHA!) calmly walk away right behind the officers. I find this affecting because it says so much about Martha - that after attacking her daughter's 'secret' boyfriend, that she could so calmly and unhurriedly walk away.
Alas, the effect is ruined by the two bobbies that come in from the opposite direction with a very clear line of sight right at her and yet they manage to not see her, even though the fog very clearly isn't enough to hide her exit.
I also find it interesting that Martha didn't actually hurt him, when everything we saw leading up to the attack shows she had the opportunity. Is it possible she stopped herself because of guilt over the officer's and boy's having not survived their encounters with her (extremely doubtful, as we'll find that Martha is pretty cold and ruthless) or that despite her hating her daughter's choice, she simply couldn't bring herself to break her heart (far more likely - she clearly loves her daughter very much). But, having said that, it is interesting that Martha isn't above putting suspicion on her daughter by wearing a near duplicate of her outfit to attack Dwight. It's not made a point in the script here by the Constable or Barry, but the outfits are very similar.
Anyway, Dwight spots Martha rushing away and points her out to the coppers and Barry. The anonymous bobbies go after her into the woods, while Barry and the Constable talk to Dwight. He reports that she seemed unusually strong for a woman (or you're just a foreigner and ergo, weak and unmanly [he has an accent]). Carol happens to arrive at this moment and rushes to his side, getting questions about her presence. She admits that she's been seeing Dwight behind her mother's back.
Commentary: I like the Constable here. After Carol formally introduces Dwight to a clearly suspicious Barry , he introduces himself as well, just so their all cozy with one another now. It's droll, but there's so little to enjoy now that we already know the bad guy, guessed the obvious motive and just want the hero to get caught up with us, that little pleasures are all we have.
Scene 36: The following evening, Carol is reading the paper again, about the attack on her fella. Barry stops by again. He confronts Carol and accuses her of being the She Wolf of the park. She's flabbergasted. And, so am I... by the scripting:
Barry: "... that's also how I happened to discover that you're the She Wolf!"
Carol: "Barry, you must be joking!"
Barry: "No, I'm quite serious."
Carol: "You can't possibly be serious, Barry!"
Barry: "But I am!" (As I've just stated in a deadly serious tone, moron. Were you not paying attention?!")
Scintillating, I'm sure you'll agree.
Barry posits that Carol may not remember everything she did. He further tells her that she could be insane, which she is quite indignant about. Carol tells him that she only went to the park for one reason, to meet Dwight (and I suppose, not to butcher him). She turns the conversation around on him by wondering just how he happened to see her leave the manor. He's forced to admit that he was casing the place in his worry over Phyllis.
As this conversation is going on, Aunt Martha comes down the staircase, sending my entire suppositions about how she picked Dwight as her victim and managed to not hurt him in question. She certainly acts like the fact her daughter has been sneaking out of the house this whole time is a surprise (and this is before anyone else is in her presence to pretend to).
She comes into the 'library'... though I think its more of a parlor and tries to play hostess, but Barry leaves instead. She confronts her daughter for being a fool and meeting secretly with the beau that she specifically told her to forget.
Commentary: Which means that Dwight was a completely random victim and she just suddenly got incompetent about wielding that hand rake. Which, also makes me think that her choice of dress was also nothing but a coincidence just to give Barry a reason to accuse Carol where Mrs Winthrop could overhear, so she'd find out about Dwight....
Mother and daughter have a confrontation over Dwight, where Carol tells her mother, "you're not the boss of me".
Commentary: And, more god-awful scripting: Carol specifically states here that her mother has been pressuring her to marry Barry in Phyllis' place, but we never, ever saw any hint of that. We did see Martha tell Barry that Carol was in the garden in a tone of voice that could be taken for her pushing them together, but there was nothing to indicate that Carol was informed of the grand plan to become Mrs. Lanfield. You'd think we'd have seen a bitter fight before now if this were an ongoing issue between them.
Martha grabs Carol by the arm to stop her from storming out and archly informs her that Barry and Phyllis will never be married. Phyllis is insane.
Scene 37: In the meanwhile, Phyllis is in bed, again. She's got the Curse on her mind and is reading on Lycanthropy. Once again, the dogs are going crazy and making enough racket to keep the whole neighborhood awake. She goes to her closet, and I thought she was giving into her superstition and was going to hang the lantern again. But, instead she grabs a package and goes to Carol's room. She tells Carol that she must talk to her, but we don't know what it's about, because we fade cut to Martha sitting in the parlor/library and reading.
Scene 38: Carol starts to walk by dressed for a stroll. She detours to stand in her mother's face. Carol tells her mother she's going for the police. Phyllis has told the whole tale to Carol and shown her the evidence (her muddy clothes). Martha points out that this proves she told her the truth about Phyllis' dementia, but Carol tells her she thinks Phyllis is being set up. She tells her that her cousin has requested the police for an investigation into her and Carol means to oblige her.
Commentary: With such a limited number of suspects for this hoax, I fail to see any evidence that Carol is linking her mother to her suspicions. Once wonders if she thinks Barry or Hannah are the culprits - even though neither has any motive, while she herself and her mother share a clear financial one. I guess love is blind.
As Carol is confronting her mother, Hannah is overhearing all of this.
Scene 39: Oh, brother. So, Carol goes off into the night to fetch the police. Barry just so happens to have decided to watch the front door this time, instead of the garden gate. Seeing her, he follows. Dwight just so happens to be hanging out in a bush for some reason (he's clearly not in front of the Allenby house, nor is he awaiting a rendevous). He sees Carol walk by, sees Barry following, and falls in behind them without saying a word.... I'll also just mention that Carol casually strolls as slowly as possible to fetch the police for her cousin, who she's convinced is being driven crazy in a plot by someone close to her....
Commentary: Can I just say one last time that I hate this script? I promise I won't say it again, even as we reach the supremely lame denouement.
Scene 40: Martha walks up the grand staircase with warm milk. Hannah follows, I suppose because Carol has made her suspicious of Martha with her previous confrontation with her mother.
In her room, our worthless heroine is again bed-ridden and angsting as she awaits the police so she can confess to her werewolfism. For absolutely zero reason, except that its arty and we're coming to the end, the camera angle is canted so we get that there is something wrong here (except we know that because we already saw that Martha is the killer). Martha presses her warm milk toddy onto the unsuspecting and trusting Phyllis.
In the meantime, busy body Hannah is listening outside of the bedroom door. This is highly convenient since Martha is about to confess everything to a drugged Phyllis.
Commentary: I do like a few things about this long scene, though. One is the 'special effect' of blurring the camera focus along with a shimmery effect to tells us that Phyllis is falling under the sway of whatever mickey that Martha just slipped her. The other is Martha's cool and calm response to Phyllis' statement that she feels drugged and sleepy.
Martha: "You're right. I drugged you."
Phyllis: "So I wouldn't hear the dogs?"
Martha: "No, Phyllis. I'm going to kill you."
This is easily the strongest scene, acting wise, by Sara Haden. She manages to be cold and calculating, but at the same time, watch her eyes. She gives Martha Winthrop true regret that this is the way things had to turn out.
But, naturally, despite the really thick oak door and that Martha isn't talking much above a whisper, old Hannah hears every word. She's horrified, but continues listening instead of, oh I don't know, intervening.
Martha further explains that if the police come and investigate, they'll call in a doctor who will find Phyllis perfectly sane. So, to avoid this, she'll kill her instead.
Commentary: Again, I'll give props here for Sara Haden. Her Martha is obviously at this point cuckoo-nutso, and probably has been for quite awhile. She's obsessed with the idea of not being able to stay on in the house after Phyllis marries Barry and leaves.
She tells her she had planned for her to go to be driven insane. She'd press for her to be allowed to care for her in here at the house, so things would remain relatively unchanged. Further, with her out of the way, Carol and Barry could be wed, securing her daughter's financial future and getting rid of Dwight's involvement in her life. We also see when the camera angle is right, that she has a large knife tucked in her robe.
She admits she killed the little boy in the park, and almost manages to look guilt-striken about it. But she has no conflict at all about murdering Latham. Of course, she's arranging a suicide for poor, pathetic Phyllis. And with her odd behavior that Carol and Barry will have to stipulate to during the police follow up, they'll buy that her guilt and delusion became too much for her to bear. Phyllis cries, drugged, but doesn't so much as attempt to struggle... poor little lamb.
And this is the last time I'll say anything positive about this picture....
Scene 41: Hannah chooses this time to slip the door open, which squeaks - even though it never has throughout the entire movie. Martha discovers her eavesdropping and takes off after her with the shiny knife in hand. Hannah makes a desperate run for it. But, of course, first she has to give her a bunch of clunky dialog about having seen her hiding the sleep drug in the kitchen. Just as naturally, Martha doesn't cut Hannah's revelations off with a quick thrust of her tightly held blade.
Commentary: I think Hannah is supposed to sound heroic here, refusing to stand by while this outrage occurs and threatening to go to the police and all. But, to me, she just sounds stupid and in desperate want of a stabbing.
Scene 42: Hannah manages to outrun Martha, who daintily runs after her making sure not to catch up with the old biddy. She further trips her way down the stairs, managing to jab herself with the knife while Hannah struggles with the locked front door. Poor Martha. If only she'd jabbed Hannah while the crone was busy jabber-jawing at her....
Conveniently, the Inspector, Carol, Barry and Dwight all show up at that moment and easily open the door from outside that Hannah was struggling with from within (huh, how odd). While Hannah is rather insensitively calling Carol's dead mother the 'She Wolf, herself!' Barry rushes up to Phyllis' room, relieved to find her unhurt, though still quite drugged.
Phyllis tells Barry that "she" is going to kill her, but he smiles and tells her she'll never kill anyone else.... fade to black on Phyllis smiling back through her drug haze.
The Good: Hmmm. Sara's acting is well done during her confession.
Don Porter and June Lockhart do a good job, though both of their characters suffer from blandness.
Before his death, the werewolf obsessed Latham was a likeable fellow.
The Bad: A lot of the acting was too mannered, including Sara's through most of the middle part of the picture.
Certain scenes really showed up Jan Wiley's weak acting next to her fellow actors.
Pierce was utterly superfluous.
The script is the big one - logical errors, ridiculous dialog, a completely anti-climactic ending for the villain and a nonsense killer motif (especially problematic is the foleyed dog snarls during the murders).
A heroine who doesn't do one damned thing to save herself, even if she is drugged up. She lays there whimpering and waiting for the blade - it's hard to get behind someone who has 'victim' stamped on their forehead.
For all of the talk about the wedding in a week, we don't even go out on it? Our closing shot is still our heroine being completely useless? The secondary character, Carol, was more proactive than the lead!
The soundtrack is far, far, too soapy and melodramatic to suffer through in a murder mystery/horror film.
The appearing and disappearing dogs - they didn't appears to serve any point - the police never even seriously consider them a possible cause of the deaths and Martha never uses them to attack her victims or to threaten Phyllis. What was their point? This wouldn't be so aggregious if they were just there - but the director deliberately has them jumping over walls and following Martha out into the park as if they were going to play red herring or have a impact on the proceedings in some way. They never do.
Other Thoughts: I won't complain of the movie not being an actual werewolf film. I will lodge a virtual protest against Universal though, for including this film in the Wolf Man set. It is entirely inappropriate.
I'd be hard pressed to call this a horror film, despite the few murders. It's more of a drama which incorporates horror trappings. Like Gaslight, it concerns attempts to drive someone insane, but so much of it is talking between the secondary players, that the focus of the film - the heroine - doesn't get anything to do. She spends way too much time whining in bed, "ill". I almost wish we'd have focused the story on Martha Winthrop from the beginning and watch as she unknowingly by those around her loses her sanity. The entire script also needed to have a 'logic checker' in place - it was really a mess and didn't need to be as there is nothing wrong with the basic story.
The Score: I wish they had tried more with this film, as the story itself has merit, especially if they'd refocused on Martha's break with sanity instead of the drippy Barry/Phyllis soap opera. I'd even still have given this an average score, if it wasn't for the horrible lapses in sense and the absolutely pathetic ending of the villainess. As is... 2.50 out of 5
The Usual Spoilers Apply, But in This Case, the Movie Spoils Itself Three Quarters Through, So Who Cares?
After you read my review - go here for an interview with June about this movie - it's great!