THE RED HOUSE

(1947)
With Edward G. Robinson, Judith Anderson, Allene Roberts, Lon McCallister, Rory Calhoune
Directed by Delmer Daves
Black and White
Reviewed by JB

    I'm not a fan of remakes but if ever there was an old film that would be perfect for remaking, it is Delmer Daves THE RED HOUSE.  A creepy psychological thriller, it has parts for veteran actors as well as several teen players.  There would be no need to update it as it all takes place in and around a remote farm, untouched for years by the outside world.  I can picture Wes Craven, who did an excellent Hitchcockian thriller RED EYE a few years ago, taking on this project.  Or perhaps Martin Scorsese, who did such a great job with the remake of CAPE FEAR.

     Not that there is anything wrong with the original version.  It is a suspenseful noirish mystery with elements of horror.  Edward G. Robinson plays a farmer who is haunted by the woods near his property, and as the film progresses, we begin to suspect that something very bad went on out that he is trying to suppress.  He lives with his sister, played by Judith Anderson, who, surprisingly, is the most normal member of the family.  There is also the daughter they adopted, Meg, played by Allene Roberts.

     As Robinson's past actions become clear, he becomes more and more distant, drifting in and out of the past.  It is yet another quality characterization by Robinson, who sometimes seems incapable of ever giving a bad performance.  He is truly frightening as his world crumbles around him and he finds himself compelled to return to the red house in the woods where the past is finally revealed.  The teenage cast, which includes a young Rory Calhoune, is not that impressive, but Allene Roberts stands out, playing young Meg as emotionally stunted, in a performance almost as effective as Robinson's.  Delmer Daves's direction and the eerie score by Miklos Rosza help make this a minor classic, though in what genre, I am not sure. 3½ - JB

Edward G. Robinson     The Stuff You Gotta Watch

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