Limmeridge House of Mystery.
The Woman in White is directed by Peter Godfrey and adapted to screenplay by Stephen Morehouse Avery from the novel of the same name written by Wilkie Collins. It stars Alexis Smith, Eleanor Parker, Sydney Greenstreet, Gig Young, Agnes Moorehead, John Abbott and John Emery. Music is by Max Steiner and cinematography by Carl E. Guthrie.
England 1851 and artist Walter Hartright (Young) makes his way through the woods to the Limmeridge Estate where he is to teach drawing to Laura Fairlie (Parker). But he is stopped in his tracks by a woman dressed all in white, she is vague and frightened and runs off when she hears a carriage approaching. Walter will soon find out that once he gets to Limmeridge House things will get even stranger than his meeting with the mysterious woman in white…
It’s the sort of Gothic period film noir that is an acquired taste, on one hand it has ambiance and suspenseful mystery in abundance, on the other it’s desperately slow and a bit too complex for its own good. Narratively there is an array of devilish strands at work, with insanity, hypnotism, murder, greed, hypochondria and hints of other unhealthy doings bubbling away in this most creepy of Estate Mansions. Visually and aurally it’s a treat, as Steiner layers the mood with haunting virtuosity and Guthrie and Godfrey imbue it all with threatening shadow play and ethereal focus shots.
Greenstreet takes the acting honours with one of his shifty and sinister turns, but Moorehead is one classy lassy for sure, while Parker in a dual role shows the graceful eloquence that many directors failed to utilise in her career. Set design (George Southam) is a period delight, as is the costuming (Bernard Newman/Milo Anderson), all told it’s a hugely impressive production, one that is both bursting with funereal atmospherics and pungent with weirdness. A strange film for definite, hypnotic even, its draggy middle section makes it far from flawless, but those with a bent for Gothic noir and Lynchian like mysteries, this is most likely one for you. 7/10