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Ferryman Joseph (Frank Conlan) of a village amidst the swamps is
killed one day, & the townsfolks - a superstitious lot - are quick
to blame it on the strangler, a former ferryman himself who was a
long time ago accused of murder & hanged - a murder, as it turns out
not he but Joseph did commit -, & whose spirit now roams the
Everyone now seems way to afraid to take up the job of
ferryman - everyone but Joseph's granddaughter Maria that is, who
returns to the village from afar & doesn't share the villagers'
superstitions (but she is not told everything by the villagers either).
Soon the mayor's (Robert Barrat) son (Blake Edwards) also returns to the
village from studies far away from home, & he proves to have a more
sober approach to the strangler-business as well, so it is no wonder
that he & Maria soon fall in love. But the strangler of course is
real (& played by Charles Middleton), still out to get those who
hanged him & there offspring, as Chris soon has to find out, almost
being hanged by the spirit & saved by Maria only in the nick of
time. But Chris is still seriously injured, & the strangler spoils
every attempt of Maria to get help - but while doing so losing track of
Chris himself, whom meanwhile his father is trying to save.
In the end
though, Maria, Chris & his father are cornered in the ruins of the
old chapel which the strangler cannot enter but they cannot leave,
either - & Chris is still on the verge of dying. So Maria decides to
make the ultimate sacrifice - to give her own life in order to save
Chris's. The strangler, touched by this, gives up his revenge &
seizes to exist - leaving Maria alive after all.
of the Swamp is easily the best movie PRC ever turned out as well as
quite probably one of the best horror movies of the 40's (&
certainly the most underrated one, I imagine it would be raved
about if the 3 letters of the production company weren't PRC but RKO).
Strangler ... is a deliberately slow-paced mood-piece, with great
& highly artificial swamp sets which almost border the
expressionistic - which seem to be always covered in fog that does not
allow any daylight to shine through - that greatly compliment to
the film's spooky atmosphere. Also, Rosemary LaPlanche (Miss America
1941, who was also in Wisbar's Devil
Bat's Daughter) gives a competent performance as a strong
leading lady & the minimalistic effort to make a spooky spirit out
of Charles Middleton (his face is just kept in the dark) works to great
effect. A must-see for every horror-fan.
By the way, a semi-remake of
Wisbar's earlier, German-produced Fährmann Maria (1936).