CANDLES AT NINE (1944)
Article 3536 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 3-26-2011
Posting Date: 4-20-2011
Directed by John Harlow
Featuring Jessie Matthews, Beatrix Lehmann, John Stuart
What it is: Old dark house movie
A singer is the heir to an old man’s fortune, but she can only inherit if she spends a month living in the old man’s spooky mansion.
By the mid-forties, the “old dark house” genre was on its last legs, but this movie does have some novelty value. First of all, unlike most of the others, this one comes from Britain. Secondly, the plot does occasionally go off in different directions other than what you’d expect from the genre. Unfortunately, this is because the movie wanders a bit; I get the feeling that the makers weren’t quite sure what to do with the concept, as if they realized they were swimming in heavily cliched waters and knew they had to do something to freshen things up, but weren’t sure what to do. As a result, the movie just doesn’t achieve any consistent tone; it tries a bit of everything (some comedy, some music, some mystery, some horror, some romance) but never really settles on anything. The mystery elements come across as weak; the true villains are obvious, and the backstory that explains the events is held back from us by the detective until the end of the movie for no real good reason. My favorite character is the old man, who has one great scene before he dies, but that’s not the first time this sort of thing has happened in this genre. Jessie Matthews was apparently a big star in her time, but this catches her on the way back down the ladder, though she would pop up in movies and TV shows for another 35 years.