The Inheritance (1947)

(a.k.a. UNCLE SILAS)
Article #1466 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-20-2005
Posting Date: 8-17-2005
Directed by Charles Frank
Featuring Jean Simmons, Katina Paxinou, Derrick De Marney

The young heiress of a vast fortune finds herself under the guardianship of her Uncle Silas, who has evil plans for obtaining her fortune.

Given the above plot description, and taking into account that the plot involves an elaborate deception, an evil governess, drugged wine and a locked area of a mansion with a secret, we’re definitely in Tod Slaughter-style melodrama territory; in fact, this movie could have been easily adapted for Slaughter with him playing Uncle Silas. That movie would have been a lot of fun, but I think it would have lacked some of the nicer points of this one, which takes itself a little more seriously than your average Slaughter opus. It’s not a horror movie, but by tapping in to its strong Gothic roots, and by shooting several of the scenes with a gloomy and forbidding atmosphere, it has the feel of a horror movie on occasion; there are spooky cobweb-filled passages and a frightening face in the window just for starters. It also has fine performances from all, with special mention going to Katina Paxinou, whose hard-drinking French governess character is unsettlingly creepy. It takes a while to get rolling, and some of the pacing is awkward, but it builds up to a truly satisfying climax. One thing I’m sure of, though; if Slaughter had played the character of Uncle Silas, the end of the movie would have changed drastically, as Slaughter would most likely have never performed the final act of that character in this movie.

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