Mill Creek Musings: The Red House (1947)

Pete Morgan (Edward G. Robinson) and his sister, Ellen (Judith Anderson), live on a farm in a small community. Together they’ve been raising a young girl named Meg (Allene Roberts), who was orphaned when her parents left town when she was only a baby.

(Image via Movie Poster Shop)
(Image via Movie Poster Shop)

Meg is now a teenager, and she’s got a lot of responsibility on the farm. Pete has a wooden leg, which makes his work twice as difficult.

Wanting to alleviate some of Pete’s stress, Meg invites Nath (Lon McCallister), a friend from school, to help out with the chores of farm operation. Pete accepts the help, but warns Nath to stay away from the house in the woods on his way home. Pete says he’s heard screams  coming from that house at night.

Naturally, the two young’ns avoid Pete’s warnings and decide to spend their spare time exploring the woods. But Pete was right: secrets and danger await the pair in The Red House.

This film was directed by Delmer Daves for Sol Lesser Productions and was distributed by United Artists. Daves also wrote the adapted screenplay, from a novel by George Agnew Chamberlain.

In terms of print quality, this is definitely not one of the best I’ve seen in a Mill Creek set. The sound is incredibly muffled. I had to turn the volume up pretty high to be able to understand the narration in the beginning at all, and the same can be said for most of the dialogue. The visual quality isn’t quite so bad as the sound, but it has its fair share of distortion as well.

It’s a shame, too, because the film itself is phenomenal. It pains me to see any movie preserved poorly, but it gives me triple the pains to see that a film as good as this has fallen into the public domain and left to die.

I went into the film with fairly high expectations after reading the premise in the booklet that accompanies Mill Creek’s 50 Dark Crimes set. My expectations were further heightened by the fact that the great Edward G. Robinson stars.

Robinson’s performance adds to the eerie aura of the film. He seems to know a lot about what’s going on in the woods but he sometimes goes back on his own stories. The character is puzzling and Robinson’s performance is very strong, leaving the viewer questioning whether he could be involved in some of the spooky goings-on in the woods.

Allene Roberts as Meg (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)
Allene Roberts as Meg (Screen capture by Lindsey for TMP)

Lon McCallister and Allene Roberts give good performances as well. Roberts is not an actress I’d seen in anything before, but I enjoyed watching her. This was her first major role, and she impresses in it, especially in her scenes with Robinson.

But best of all, what an interesting story Daves gives his actors to tell. I would love to be able to read the source novel, but I haven’t yet been able to track down a copy. I imagine it’s every bit as suspenseful as the adaptation.

The Red House is a wonderful mystery. Mill Creek’s print runs at an hour and forty minutes, but it feels much shorter because the story is so engrossing. I highly recommend this one — I’d consider it one of my very best Mill Creek discoveries thus far. The score: 5/5!

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