For Reel

The Unknown (1946)
July 16, 2017, 11:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Henry Levin
4 Stars
The UnknownThis final film adaptation of the “I Love a Mystery” radio series (credited as a partial inspiration for Scooby Doo, Where Are You!) elevates the material significantly to near genre masterpiece. Detectives Jack Packard (Jim Bannon) and Doc Sloane (Barton Yarborough) this time find themselves in a decaying mansion where Nina Arnold (Jeff Donnell) reunites with her now deranged mother. The details of the setting are familiar of a number of “old, dark house” pictures, but director Henry Levin grounds the genre spooks in the Southern Gothic plot, involving lost loves and dark family secrets. Henry Freulich’s cinematography makes the nearby mausoleum and requisite hidden passages suitably eerie, and although Karen Morley’s performance is big, it suits the maddening claustrophobia. Director Henry Levin, who capably balanced the tone of Val Lewton-like psychological horror with a traditional noir in the previous two entries, furthers his experimentation here with haunting bookending sequences in which a dead woman provides a voiceover. The film was an unqualified failure and was generally disliked by its stars, but many of its images—the brick-and-mortar burial that echoes “The Cask of Amontillado,” the doll with its voicebox removed—are hair-raising.

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