Then one night after joining the Morgan clan for post-labor supper, Nath mentions something about cutting through Ox Head Woods on his walk home, prompting the farmer to bark warnings about a supposedly cursed and evil piece of property deep within. Mr. Morgan begs Nath and Meg to stay away, to not go near that darned red house.
You, however, should proceed directly to The Red House, an unusual piece of noir from 1947 that deserves a better reputation. Perhaps Film Chest’s restoration on Blu-ray will help, as its clean-up job is marvelously apparent, putting all of the film’s public-domain cheapie releases to shame. While imperfect — some of the outdoor scenes are overexposed, making whites into blindingly pure whites — the restoration is much appreciated, and illustrated in a one-minute comparison. (This is the latest in the label’s string of such well-scrubbed cult items; see below for more.)
Kids being kids, you tell them not to do something, and they do the opposite. It’s no different here, with Nath and Meg — and Nath’s über-foxy girlfriend, Tibby (singer Julie London) — traversing the woods in broad daylight to see what’s so bad about the abode in question.
Turns out, quite a lot. And unlike so many dark thrillers of the era, it’s not entirely predictable. Having a rumored haunted house at its chewy center casts an eerie cloak that only heightens the mystery and its considerable suspense. I love the climax, in which director Delmer Daves (Dark Passage) cannily utilizes a POV shot to place the viewer in the hot seat, capping off an underappreciated crime gem. —Rod Lott