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90 minutes · 2013
This Louisiana-set gothic melodrama (1944) was one of André de Toth's first directorial efforts, and it shares with much of his mature output a fascination with betrayal. Merle Oberon plays an heiress who survives a sea disaster and, arriving in the U.S., gets taken in by distant relatives who oversee an isolated backwater plantation and are suspicious of visitors. De Toth brings an elegant visual sensibility to the tawdry story, staging ambitious, curvilinear tracking shots and setting much of the action under rich, spooky shadows. Further enhancing the uncanny atmosphere, he casts familiar character actors wildly against type: Thomas Mitchell and John Qualen are effete southern gentleman, and Elisha Cook Jr. (film noir's greatest twerp) is a thuggish sexual aggressor.

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