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June 7, 2012

Movie Review: The Red House (1947)

Directed by Delmer Daves

Starring Edward G. Robinson, Lon McCallister and Judith Anderson

When most people think of “film noir”, they think black and white crime dramas, chain-smoking  private detectives and mysterious beautiful women with scandalous intent. The Red House has none of these things but make no mistake, this is “film noir” of the highest caliber. A gripping murder-mystery where the cinematographer’s use of light and shadow are as important to the storytelling as the plot itself. Where the score sets the mood, tone and overall feel of every scene. This is the kind of movie that will simply sweep you off your feet and transport you to another time and place.

In The Red House, the great Edward G. Robinson plays Pete Morgan, a reclusive old farmer who lives with his sister (Judith Anderson) and their adopted teenage daughter, Meg (Aleene Roberts). Much of the story revolves around the budding romance between Meg and Nate (Lon McAllister) who has come to work on Pete's farm. Nate already has a girlfriend though, a femme fatale type of character played by the stunning Julie London. As Nate's attention turns to Meg, her attentions turn to the films bad-boy, Teller (played by a young and dashing Rory Calhoun). Lurking behind this teenage love triangle + 1 is a creepy old red house deep in the woods behind the farm. Pete has forbid Meg from going in the woods, for fear of her discovering the red house, and the deep dark secrets contained within. Naturally, her curiosity is aroused and along with Nate they begin a search for it. Once Pete realizes the youngsters are snooping about the woods, he slowly begins to lose his grip on his sanity, and he attempts at all cost to prevent them from unraveling the mysteries of the house and its link to his own murderous past. And the closer they get to the red house, the more dangerous and deadly their quest becomes.

This movie for me represents one of Edward G. Robinson's crowning achievements as an actor, and displays brilliantly his ability to transcend that iconic image we all have of him as the hard-nosed gangster characters he became so famous for. In the role of Pete Morgan he demonstrates his ability to craft a character which is loathsome, untrustworthy and evil, while simultaneously eliciting sympathy and pity from the film viewer. His performance is absolutely masterful.

In the presence of such greatness, the rest of the films actors and actresses were on their absolute A-game, as there's not a bad performance among them. As a Rory Calhoun fan it was pretty awesome to see him as a young lad and I couldn't help but laugh to myself and wonder if he had any idea he would some day be playing the role of a chainsaw wielding, cannibalistic serial killer in his golden years as an actor. (Motel Hell)

And as great as the acting was, it still took a back-seat to the breathtaking cinematography and score, where light, shadow and music are used to such perfection that they are the main instrument of the storytelling. Creating such a beautifully creepy ambiance that its as much a work of art to behold as it is a simple movie to be watched.

The Red House is an old fashioned Hollywood classic in every sense of the word, and if you are a fan of cinema, old or new, you are cheating yourself if you don't get your hands on this film.

HD Cinema Classics has lovingly restored this treasure to better then new viewing quality, and its now available at in both DVD and Blu-ray format and both are very reasonably priced.

Included on the disc in the extras is an interesting segment showing many of the films scenes before and after the restoration. It's a near-perfect movie in my opinion, and one that shouldn't be missed.

9.5 out of 10  Reviewed by KennyB

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