Monday, 5 August 2013

The House in Marsh Road (1960)

The House in Marsh Road, a ghost story of sorts, was made at Britain’s Merton Park Studios in 1960.

David Linton (Tony Wright) and his wife Jean (Patricia Dainton) live their whole lives one step ahead of their creditors. They are constantly on the move in order to avoid paying their debts. Them they have a stroke of luck, or at least what appears to be a stroke of luck. Jean inherits a house from a long-lost aunt.

The house, Four Winds, is a rather old-fashioned cottage in a quiet village. Its main distinguishing feature is that it includes a ghost. Apparently it’s a fairly friendly ghost. Well, it’s been a fairly friendly ghost up to now.

David is a novelist. Or rather he’s a would-be novelist. He certainly has all the right qualifications - he’s an obnoxious self-pitying drunk so he’s halfway there already. David is keen to sell the house. He claims he can’t work there. Of course the truth is that David wouldn’t work anywhere. His idea of hard work is propping up the bar at the local pub.

David’s excuse for his drinking is that he needs to meet people, otherwise he won’t have any material. Apparently writers get all their best material in pubs. It sure beats working anyway.

To help him with the literary masterpiece he’s currently working on (when he isn’t boozing) he hires a local woman from the village to type up his deathless prose. The fact that this woman, Mrs Valerie Stockley (Sandra Dorne), happens to be an attractive young blonde suggests that David isn’t really interested in her typing skills.

Relations between David and Jean become increasingly strained. He’d always lived off her but now that she owns a house his dependence on her is even more obvious, and he becomes more and more resentful. Soon he’s telling Valerie Stockley that his wife doesn’t understand him. David’s actual problem is that Jean understands him only too well. Mrs Stockley is sympathetic to David’s whining, mostly because she thinks the house belongs to him. She’s not the sort of woman who falls in love with penniless failed writers. David convinces himself that if he was married to Valerie Stockley he’d be happy and he’d be able to write lots of successful novels. If only there was some way he could marry Valerie. If only his wife were to meet with an unfortunate accident everything would be peachy. You know where this is going of course.

Meanwhile the ghost is getting more restive. The ghost seem to be well disposed to Jean and she is quite happy to have him haunting the house as long as he doesn’t cause any trouble. And he doesn’t cause any trouble, except to David. This ghost seems to dislike David. Jean’s aunt had told her that the ghost would not harm any member of her family. It seems that the ghost (who is invariably known as Patrick) does not really consider David to be family.

As the plot moves to its inevitable conclusion Patrick the ghost takes an increasingly active role, a role that will become eventually become crucial.

The acting is adequate without being particularly outstanding although Tony Wright as David certainly makes a memorable heel. Wright is merciless in exposing his character’s delusions and his basic weakness.

Montgomery Tully had a prolific career as a director of British B-movies, especially crime movies. He was perfectly competent without reaching any great heights but he could be relied upon to turn out acceptable results on limited budgets. Writer-producer Maurice J. Wilson’s career followed a similar trajectory, and his screenplay is similarly competent. The short 70-minute running time helps to keep the pacing taut which is just as well since there really isn’t a lot of plot to develop.

The ghost remains invisible which neatly obviates the need for any special effects. In most cases the less you see of a ghost the more effective it is so that is no disadvantage.

This movie is paired with another forgotten British horror movie, The Monkey’s Paw, on a single disc from Renown Pictures. This British DVD release is region-free. Both movies are presented in their original 4:3 aspect ratio. The transfers are excellent. It’s worth pointing out also that the price is quite reasonable.

The House in Marsh Road does a reasonable job of combining a mystery thriller with an old-fashioned (if slightly offbeat) ghost story. The plot is a little threadbare but there are some nice moments when the ghost decides to take a hand in events. This is an old-fashioned movie but it’s old-fashioned in a good way and it’s perfectly decent if not terribly demanding entertainment. Recommended.

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