Dark Waters (1944)

Article #867 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 7-30-2003
Posting Date: 12-27-2003
Directed by Andre de Toth
Featuring Merle Oberon, Franchot Tone, Thomas Mitchell

A woman recovering from a traumatic boat accident ends up staying with relatives in a Louisiana bayou, when strange things begin happening.

Title check: An extremely good one, as it does triple time meaning the dark waters in which the heroine’s parents died, the dark waters of the Louisiana bayou, and the dark waters of the mind.

Screenwriter Joan Harrison wrote this one, and she’s also written several scripts for Alfred Hitchcock. Maybe if Hitchcock had directed this one, it might have kicked it into the suspense overdrive it needed. As it is, it’s a passable GASLIGHT variation, helped a little by the fact that for once the female victim of the plot is suffering from something more than just some vague mental illness (she’s suffering from what I believe is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder brought about by a tragic boat accident that killed her parents), and there are several familiar character actors to brighten the proceedings, like Thomas Mitchell, John Qualen, Rex Ingram and Elisha Cook Jr. I wonder what psychologists would think of the ending, where the heroine is spontaneously cured of all her mental illnesses.

By the way, this is an excellent movie in which to play the “How long will it be before Elisha Cook Jr. dies?” game, especially if played with an added game of figuring out how he’s going to die. If you’re alert, you should be able to figure out the method of death long before it actually occurs.

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