House by the River

Movie Information

In Brief: One of Fritz Lang's lesser-known films, House by the River (1950) was in fact often referred to as a "lost film." The fact seems to have been more prosaic than that. There was simply no interest in it because it was considered to be physically too dark to be watched on TV, especially on earlier sets. I don't know how accurate that is, but, yes, the movie is most frightfully dark — something I'd say is essential for Lang's period-piece, pulpy, small-town, gothic thriller. The story is simple enough, even if the psychology isn't. Pretentious, unsuccessful, self-important writer Stephen Byrne (an over-the-top Louis Hayward often physically resembling Orson Welles here) is also, it turns out, a drunkard, a liar, a lecher and a sociopath. When he "accidentally" strangles the new maid (Dorothy Patrick), he bamboozles his brother John (Lee Bowman) into helping dispose of the body. How does he pull this off? By lying to his virtuous brother about his wife's (Jane Wyatt) nonexistent pregnancy, thereby playing on the fact that his sibling is in love with her and will do anything to protect her. It's a really healthy situation. While Stephen thrives on the publicity of the "missing" housemaid, John becomes increasingly withdrawn — and then the body resurfaces on the river. It's all dark, moody, even expressionistic — and just the sort of overheated trash to appeal to Lang.
Genre: Crime Drama
Director: Fritz Lang
Starring: Louis Hayward, Lee Bowman, Jane Wyatt, Dorothy Patrick, Ann Shoemaker, Jody Gilbert
Rated: NR

The Hendersonville Film Society will show House by the River Sunday, July 3, at 2 p.m. in the Smoky Mountain Theater at Lake Pointe Landing Retirement Community (behind Epic Cinemas), 333 Thompson St., Hendersonville.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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