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The Red House

The Red House
February 16, 2019 - 10:20 pm

Access every screening in the UCLA Festival of Preservation with a $50 pass.

The Red House  (1947)

Preservation funding provided by The Film Foundation and The George Lucas Family Foundation.

The Red House is a queasy dissertation on Rural American Gothic. Something about the solitude of out-of-the-way, neglected spaces lends them to secrets, pent-up guilt, sexual anxiety and madness. Crippled farmer Peter Morgan (how did he lose that leg?) and his spinster sister Ellen (why didn’t she marry her true love Doc Byrne?) live in seclusion with their adopted teenage ward Meg (what really happened to her parents?). When Meg’s classmate Nath comes to work the farm, his schoolboy crush on Meg in tow, Pete begins to unravel. He warns of screams in the night and an evil Something that inhabits the Oxhead Woods, centered around an abandoned red cottage and derelict ice house sequestered deep among the trees. Undisclosed sexual and murderous transgressions of the past break through into the present, shattering the carefully crafted veneer of gentility at the Morgan Farm with shame and tragedy.

Edward G. Robinson and Judith Anderson are at their powerful best as the brother and sister, secret sharers bound by sibling devotion. Robinson’s demonic patriarch overwhelms the buttermilk purity of Meg and Nath (played by Allene Roberts and Lon McAllister), who are themselves counterpointed by their teenage evil twins, rapacious Teller and Tibby (fine early performances by an earthy Rory Calhoun and a luminous Julie London).

Composer Miklós Rózsa, already a specialist in film noir and with theremin-based scores for The Lost Weekend and Spellbound behind him, again uses Doctor Termen’s wailing oscillator and, leveraged with his most lovely pastoral writing, provides not only one of his finest scores but one that is thoroughly in rapport with Delmer Daves’ discomfiting psychological thriller. Audiences inured to The Red House via grisly public domain copies will have the scales removed from their eyes by UCLA’s restoration from the original camera negative.Scott MacQueen

35mm, b/w, 100 min. Production: Thalia Productions, Inc. Distribution: United Artists. Producer: Sol Lesser.  Director: Delmer Daves. From the novel by George Agnew Chamberlain. Screenwriter: Delmer Daves, Richard H. Landau. Cinematographer: Bert Glennon. Music: Miklós Rózsa. Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Lon McAllister, Judith Anderson, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts.

Restored by UCLA Film & Television Archive. Preserved from the 35mm nitrate picture and track negatives and a 35mm nitrate composite dupe negative. Laboratory services by The Stanford Theatre Film Laboratory, Audio Mechanics, Simon Daniel Sound, DJ Audio, Inc. Special thanks to Warner Bros., Ned Price.