Mill Creek Musings: Love from a Stranger (1937)

Welcome to Mill Creek Musings, a segment in which I work my way through the three low-price Mill Creek film sets that I own, reviewing each film for content and quality along the way. Love from a Stranger marks my second viewing from the 50 Dark Crimes set.

Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Europe we go! (Screen capture by TMP)

Congratulations! You’ve won the lottery. Time to quit that job, buy a ticket to Paris and… dump your fiance?

This seems to be the game plan for Carol (Ann Harding), who recently won the big bucks after years of playing the lottery as a hobby. Carol’s sudden riches lead her to get in a big argument with soon-to-be-husband Ronald (Bruce Seton).

The couple splits up and Carol heads off on her new adventure, falling for the mysterious and quite persistent Gerald (Basil Rathbone) – a man who came to look at her apartment and decided to tag along on her trip across the pond instead.

But after Carol marries Gerald, she finds that he may not be as wonderful as he seems. His disturbed past will soon be revealed.

Rowland V. Lee directs the mysterious British drama Love from a Stranger (also known as A Night of Terror). The film is based on a Frank Vosper play which is based on an Agatha Christie story (“Philomel Cottage”).

Love from a Stranger starts out a bit light-hearted. It doesn’t jump directly into the suspense, instead setting up Carol’s life before the lottery and her struggle to find her place soon after winning. Once she finally meets Gerald, everything seems calm and fun (What says “fun” more than a double exposure party montage?) before his less admirable qualities begin to show.

Once the mood shifts, the “big” twist is quite expected – not only because this film appears in a set called Dark Crimes, but because there wouldn’t be much of a plot otherwise. The first half of the film is lacking drama and suspense for the most part, so it had to pick up pace some time.

Despite its predictability, the film does have a few strong points. The first is the use of music. Even when the film’s action and mood are calm, the music is very hectic, which interests the viewer at the very least and bolsters the mood at its best.

The film’s strongest asset is undoubtedly Basil Rathbone, who gives a pretty fantastic performance. He gives his character the perfect underlying tone of creepiness in the beginning and turns into a total madman by the end, becoming increasingly moody and suspicious.

Something fishy is cooking in Gerald’s room. (Screen capture by TMP)

Rathbone’s portrayal of his character’s psychological issues does make the film an interesting watch and provides a few great scenes. The film never truly reaches its potential for strong tension and suspense, though.

In terms of quality, the Mill Creek print of the film is decent. It’s a bit worn out visually, but not at all distorted. The sound is also pretty good given the fact that the film has received no sort of preservation or restoration. It’s highly muffled in the opening scene, but it soon clears up.

Love from a Stranger is a drama of money, lies and marriage gone wrong. Overall, it’s a less-than-great film with a few very good scenes and a lead performance that transcends the material. It’s worth a watch, but not a masterpiece. The score: 2.8/5

(Love from a Stranger is in the public domain. Watch it for free at the Internet Archive!)

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2 thoughts on “Mill Creek Musings: Love from a Stranger (1937)

  1. While I was reading your review I became increasingly interested and luckily this movie is available online, because I doubt I could find it to rent.

    I was very interested in the movie’s mixture of genres. The beginning seems like a feel good movie which turns to drama and then suspense? I’m curious to see how that goes.

    Anyway, just to let you know that I’m sending The One Lovely Blog Award your way. You can check the details on my blog (http://thecultureenthusiast.blogspot.com) if you wish to accept it. Thanks, Paula xx

    • It’s definitely a unique journey in genre-hopping. It follows the exact trajectory you listed – from happy lottery celebration to romantic drama to thriller. The thriller portion is the best part of the film in my opinion, especially with Rathbone’s performance. He borders on taking the crazy over the top in a few scenes, but it works here.

      Thank you so much for the blog award! I will happily accept it – the first I’ve received! :)

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