Day of Wrath (1943)

Article #26 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing date: 4-11-2001
Posting date: 8-24-2001

This movie is about a young woman who becomes the second wife to an elderly pastor against the wishes of the pastor’s mother. Her own mother, now dead, was accused of witchcraft, but the pastor had her charges dropped out of love for her daughter. When another old woman in the neighborhood is accused of witchcraft, she turns to the pastor for help, which does not come; she is executed to the sound of a children’s choir (a truly unsettling scene), but not before she prophecies the deaths of both the pastor and another member of the church tribunal. Meanwhile, the wife has met and fallen in love with the son of the pastor from his first marriage, and finds herself wishing for the pastor’s death.

This may not be strictly a horror movie, and those expecting one may well be disappointed. It is, however, a dark, brooding and quite powerful drama, directed by Carl Dreyer (VAMPYR) in Denmark during the German occupation. With its themes and subject matter, it certainly could not have been made in Hollywood at the time. I find it haunting and tragic, with that same touch of ambiguity to be found in the Lewton films; whether the young wife is a witch or not depends on how certain events that occur near the end of the movie are interpreted.

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