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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.
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.
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.
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
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.