EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?
|HOUSE OF SEVEN GABLES (director: Joe May; screenwriters: based on the novel by Nathanial Hawthorne/Lester Cole/Harold Greene; cinematographer: Milton Krasner; editor: Frank Gross; music: Frank skinner; cast: Vincent Price (Clifford Pynchon), George Sanders (Jaffray Pynchon), Margaret Lindsay (Hepzibah Pynchon), Nan Grey (Phoebe Pynchon), Dick Foran (Matthew Maule), Cecil Kellaway (Philip Barton), Alan Napier (Fuller), Gilbert Emery (Gerald), Miles Mander (The Deacon), Edgar Norton (Phineas Weed), Charles Trowbridge (The Judge); Runtime: 89; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Burt Kelly; Universal Pictures; 1940)|
classic tale about a
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Joe May ("You're Not So Tough"/"The Invisible Man
Returns"/"Asphalt") flatly directs this
atmospheric family drama that's based on Nathaniel Hawthorne's classic tale about
cursed family (the pic changes all the relationships around, though it
captures the spirit of the book). The book
is great, the film is not-- except for the fine performances. It's hard
to enjoy because it's so dreary.
In the mid-17th century in
New England a wretched Pyncheon ancestor stole the home, the Seven
Gables, from carpenter Matthew Maule by accusing him of practicing
witchcraft. Before Maule was executed, he put a curse on the house.
In 1828, in Salem, Ma.,
upstart lawyer Jaffray Pynchon
(George Sanders) is upset that his bankrupt father Gerald (Gilbert Emery) plans to sell the Seven
Gables to keep solvent. When his father dies from a heart attack the
bitter Jaffray, upset that his
musical composer brother Clifford (Vincent Price) wants to sell the
house, falsely accuses his brother of patricide and gets him convicted
to serve a life sentence on false circumstantial evidence. But his
father changed the will and leaves the house instead of to his oldest
son to their cousin Hepzibah
Pynchon (Margaret Lindsay), the fiancée of his brother Clifford. After Hepzibah gives Jaffray the boot, she pays off the
debts with the insurance money received from Gerald's death and lives
miserably alone in the house waiting for the release of her innocent
would-be husband Clifford.
After twenty years pass, the
governor allows Clifford to leave jail in order to prove his innocence.
Clifford on his return home to Seven Gables finds a worn-out and
embittered old maid Hepzibah
living in near poverty in the run down place. Also living there is Hepzibah's radiant cousin Phoebe Pynchon (Nan Grey), who helps run from the house a
cent store. There's also a mysterious boarder photographer who uses an
alias, but is really Matthew Maule (Dick Foran), an Abolitionist who
befriended Clifford when he was placed in the same cell when jailed for
his radical activities.
The evil Jaffray now schemes to get his brother
incarcerated in an insane asylum because of rumors reported in the
newspapers that Clifford plans to tear down the house looking for
secret passages that have hidden gold. Clifford has schemed with
Matthew to get the avaricious Jaffray, now a wealthy judge, to fall for
that lie and show his hand as someone capable of foul deeds to advance
his nefarious purposes. Surprisingly trouble brews for Jaffray because
he betrayed the Abolitionist treasurer Deacon Foster (Miles Mander) by investing the money collected by the Abolitionists, without the Deacon's knowledge, in a
slave trade ship. Jaffray now can't pay it back when the Abolitionists demand the money immediately to use for a
runaway slave. When the men come to question Jaffray about his part in
this swindle, he goes into convulsions and dies the way his father did.
But before he died, he was so frightened he signed a confession that he
mistakenly accused his brother of patricide and as a trade off for his
confession he was to get ownership of the house.
REVIEWED ON 2/10/2011 GRADE: B-
Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED DENNIS SCHWARTZ