Welcome to day 3 of Horror Half-Week! Today we’re looking at a spooky flick from the ’40s. Previous posts for HH-W 2014: 1960s | 1950s
“Old legends — strange tales — never die in the lonely swamp land. Villages and hamlets lie remote and almost forgotten. Small ferryboats glide between the shores, and the ferryman is a very important person. Day and night he is at the command of his passengers. On his little barge ride the good and the evil; the friendly and the hostile; the superstitious and the enlightened; the living and — sometimes — the dead.”
The ferryman/”very important person” in question in Strangler of the Swamp is named Douglas. He was accused of murdering a local farmer. The townspeople tried him, convicted him and sentenced him to death even though he had an alibi.
But unluckily for the town, Douglas couldn’t stay dead for long. His spirit has returned, and he’s out for revenge, targeting the people who convicted him.
Corpses begin turning up with nooses of various forms (fishing line, seaweed) around their necks, and the superstitious women of the town – most of whom believed Douglas’ alibi – know that the deaths have been caused by a curse Douglas placed on the town just before he died.
Can the mysterious, back-from-the-dead strangler ever be stopped?
Strangler of the Swamp was directed by Frank Wisbar for PRC. Wisbar also wrote the script, with additional dialogue by Harold Erickson.
This is a minor film with all of the standards you’d expect from a B movie: a cast filled mostly with little-known performers; an over-dramatic use of music; exaggerated expressions of fear; loads of fake fog. That being said, I found the film to be incredibly enjoyable.
Charles Middleton is great in his small but important role of Ferryman Douglas. His job is mostly just to stand in deep shadow, stare into the camera and spout angry dialogue now and then, but he does a very good job of it. He doesn’t try too hard to go for big scares. Just as the film is a minor film, Ferryman Douglas is a minor spook, but a fun one to watch.
Rosemary LaPlanche comes to town and becomes the first ferrywoman, taking over for her grandfather who was killed by the strangler. LaPlanche is an interesting choice for the role. Her performance isn’t stellar but she is quite sweet and very likable. We get to see more dimensions of her personality than any other character. She readily takes over her grandfather’s job, and she works hard at it. She’s also sensitive and very willing to put herself on the line for the people she loves. The film’s character development is strongest with her, though in 58 minutes, it’s difficult for any of them to be fully fleshed out.
Strangler of the Swamp isn’t a stellar film, and it isn’t big on scares. It’s got a few moments of appropriately spooky atmosphere, but I wouldn’t classify it as a truly solid horror flick. Still, it’s a nice little watch for fans of B movies. The score: 3/5
Sounds like an interesting one, Lindsey! I feel sorry for Rosemary LaPlanche’s character, though. How nowhere must her life have been that she agreed to take over her grandfather’s job as a ferryman (ferryperson?) in a haunted swamp!
Either that or she’s incredibly ballsy. “Spooks be damned, I’ll show them who runs this swamp!”