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The midst of the 1800's: Connecticut farmgirl Miranda (Gene Tierney) is
invited by distant cousin Nicholas (Vincent Price) - a rich patroon from
New York State, who owns half a county in land which he loans out to local
farmers for a price - to spend some time with him and his family as a
companion for his daughter Katrine (Connie Marshall), a girl who's a
little neglected by her parents. Miranda is of course suitably impressed
by Nicholas' family estate, especially since she has all of her life
dreamed of being a princess, and even though she, the farmgirl whose
family has always owned their land, doesn't share his political views (he
views himself as almost-royalty) and
is disappointed by Nicholas' lack of faith to the Lord, she also adores
It isn't long after Miranda has arrived that Nicholas' wife
(Vivienne Osborne) dies, and while she tries to help him over the grief
about his loss, the two become closer and closer and eventually fall in
love. Now it's not long before they are married, and before you know it,
Miranda is expecting, expecting the son Nicholas has always wanted.
Unfortunately though, the baby dies soon after birth, which is a blow to
Nicholas, and when the gouvernment decides to get rid of patroons
altogether and forces him to sell his land to his farmers, that almost
breaks him, and he spends more and more time in his secret chamber in the
tower of his mansion. One day, Miranda intrudes and finds out he is taking
drugs to come over his misfortune.
Eventually, Miranda falls ill, and
since Nicholas couldn't care less, her club-footed maid Peggy (Jessica
Tandy) fetches local doctor Turner (Glenn Langan), who has always had a
soft spot for Miranda, and who now notices some parallels between
Miranda's illness and Nicholas' first wife's death - and comes to the
conclusion Nicholas is trying to poison Miranda.
Confronted with what
the doctor has found out, Nicholas goes half mad, and his drugs certainly
don't help either, and eventually, when the authorities show up, he pulls
a gun simply because he thinks he has the right to, and is shot dead on
Miranda realizes only now that the beautiful dream of becoming
a princess has turned into a horrible reality, and she leaves her deceased
husband's estate for her family's farm with nothing more than she has come
At times a very tense thriller/drama with some horror
elements, Dragonwyck nevertheless fails to fully convince, first
and foremost because at 100 minutes, it takes a bit too long to tell its
story, and thus pads it out with quite a few too many subplots, spends too
much time setting up the story, and every now and again loses its proper
pace, so much so that the film's climax lacks the intensity it could have
had and the film as a whole is lower on suspense than expected. Still, the
whole thing is beautifully made and well acted so as to by no means waste
your time anyhow.