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The House of the Seven Gables

USA 1940
produced by
Universal
directed by Joe May
starring George Sanders, Margaret Lindsay, Vincent Price, Dick Foran, Nan Grey, Cecil Kellaway, Alan Napier, Gilbert Emery, Miles Mander, Charles Trowbridge
screenplay by Lester Cole, based on the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, adaptation by Harold Greene, music by Frank Skinner

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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200 years, the Pyncheons stole the House of the Seven Gables from the Maules in the meanest of manners, so much so that Maule cursed the Pyncheon family before he was executed on their behalf.

Now it's 1828, and the Pyncheons have upheld the tradition of lying and cheating solely for their own gain - not overly successfully, because the Pyncheons are not particularly fine businessmen, but so far they have at least managed to keep the house.

Clifford Pyncheon (Vincent Price) though is different, he doesn't care for money or businesses, he's an up-and-coming composer with nothing but kindness in his heart - which is why his cousin Hepzibah (Margaret Lindsay), also his father's (Gilbert Emery) ward, loves him dearly. Clifford also finally wants to sell the House of Seven Gables, to start anew in New York - much to the dismay of his brother Jeffrey (George Sanders), a moneygrabbing lawyer who honestly believes there's half a million in gold hidden somewhere in the house. However, it seems Clifford has the upper hand in this affair - but then Clifford and Jeffrey's father dies from a heart attack during a dispute with Clifford, and Jeffrey manages to twist the truth so it looks as if Clifford has killed him - and he is good enough a lawyer too to have Clifford convicted and thrown to jail.

At the reading of his father's will though, Jeffrey is in for a shock, as the House of the Seven Gables is not left to him but was written over to Hepzibah already 6 months ago to help dad out of some financial difficulties. Hepzibah was unaware of this, but now that she's aware of it, she throws Jeffrey out of the house to never return because she has thrown the love of her life into prison.

20 years pass, then Clifford is released from prison but put under house arrest (in the House of the Seven Gables), this way though given a chance to prove his innocence. Soon it's rumoured that Clifford has found traces to the fortune in gold hidden in the house's walls, rumours fanned by Hepzibah's lodger Matthew (Dick Foran), who's also the boyfriend of her ward Phoebe (Nan Grey) - who eventually turns out to be a Maule, a member of the family the Pyncheons have stolen the house from 200 years ago. Hepzibah wants to throw him out immediately, but Clifford insists he stays, because the two of them have become friends in prison, and Maule has since become a part of Clifford's plan to have his revenge on his brother.

Eventually, Clifford offers Jeffrey a deal, he gets the house if Jeffrey signs a confession that he has lied in court which led to Clifford's conviction. Jeffrey refuses outrightly of course, but then his past comes catching up with him when a man (Miles Mander) whose money he has embezzled commits suicide right before him and Clifford and Hepzibah accuse him of murder. In his desperation, Jeffrey signs the confession that he lied during Clifford's trial, promises everyone heaven and earth, then dies from a heart attack, just like his father, and ironically right before Maule, a member of the family that has cursed the Pyncheons 200 years ago.

The whole story ends with a double wedding: Clifford finally marries Hepzibah, who has waited for him all these years, and Maule marries Phoebe (who's also a Pyncheon), this way finally erasing whatever family curse there was.

 

Very atmospheric, at times even dark and haunting period drama that's greatly built up in an excellent first half - only to then lose itself in a few too many subplots, before finally falling together again for an exciting (if overly melodramatic) finale. With a rewrite and a bit of trimming, this could probably have been a masterpiece, as it is, it's still a pretty good if flawed film.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
-
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD