The Red House, Blu-ray + DVD 2-disc pack (1947/2012)
Cast: Edward G. Robinson, Lon McCasslister, Julie London, Rory Calhoun
Director: Delmer Daves
Music: Miklos Rozsa
Studio: HD Cinema Classics HDCC-008
Video: 4:3 B&W
Audio: English PCM mono
Extras: Audio commentary track with film noir expert William Hare, Theatrical trailer, Before & After restoration demos, Portcard with original movie art
Length: 100 minutes
This classic comes from Hollywood’s golden film noir period, though it doesn’t involve the usual setting for film noirs. The director adapted a novel serialized in The Saturday Evening Post for his film. Robinson plays an aging farmer with a desperate secret he’s trying to hide from Meg – the young girl he and his sister have adopted, and from everyone else in the farm community. As she is coming of age a male friend from high school comes to help with chores at the farm.
The two teens are warned by the farmer not to go into the nearby woods at night. But of course they do. Somewhere in their depths is the abandoned Red House of the title, and sometimes unearthly screams are heard. The cinematographer was experienced in the film noir territory, and using unusual angles and shadowy lighting he conjures up a fairly frightening woods at night. These scenes contrast greatly with the sunny scenes during the daytime on the farm and its surroundings. Singer-actress Julie London, in one of her first films, is a bit too glamorous in her role as the girl-going-bad.
Yes, it has some dated dialog and scenes but in general still holds up as a noir classic that is worth seeing. My early interest in the film was that it was the first Hollywood film to use a theremin in the scary portions. Composer Miklos Rozsa had to look up theremin player Dr. Samuel Hoffman – a podiatrist – in the AFofM Directory in LA. The theremin is used subtly in the film score, not in the forefront as it was in Hitchcock’s Spellbound, which was supposed to be the first with it, but ended up being released later that year. The Blu-ray transfer is about as good as Criterion Collection’s work.
This limited edition Record Store Day vinyl release transcends movie scores.