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I thought I'd kick the new year off with another movie marathon. I thought it was time to check out a few old school mystery flicks. Som...

Saturday, October 7, 2023

Dark Places (1974)

A doctor, Mandeville, is summoned to the hospital to tend to a dying man named Marr. He arrives too late, but we do see the man speaking to Edward Foster. He tells him he is willing his old home to him, but he wants him to keep it and “the money” safe for his children when they return. Foster arrives in town to find that the locals aren’t too keen on him reopening the place as they all seem to think that it is haunted or at least cursed. This does seem to be the case when Foster immediately falls thru the rotten bridge and is taken to see the doctor. That doctor is a familiar face as it is Mandeville from earlier. 

Here he meets the doctor, his sister Sarah (played by Joan Collins), and eventually the dead man’s solicitor Prescott. All of them try and warn him off but we quickly see that they are also all looking for the missing fortune that is hidden in the house. The rest of the movie is Foster hearing weird noises and possibly getting possessed by the dead man’s spirit. We eventually find out that it was a mental hospital and that the man was committed after his wife, children, and mistress all disappeared mysteriously at the same time that the money did. Is this a real haunting or is someone trying to frighten him out of the home and away from the money? Well, I can’t say without some spoilers which I don’t want to do. I will say that things wrap up with an unexpected but fun twist that may create as many questions as it answered. 

This isn’t a perfect movie. It has stretches that feel drawn out and some of the plot twists don’t make sense. But the story does go places and play with expectations in entertaining ways. At times it seems like someone is certainly gaslighting Foster. Hell, there are even discussions between characters as they scheme about it. Though this also leads to one of them congratulating the other for a clever trick only to find out that they weren’t responsible for it. So maybe there was a ghost after all. The plot keeps us guessing, even up to the end. What we see and how it ends could be explained in several ways, which is a nice bit of writing. 

If that doesn’t get your attention there is yet another twist with Foster that ventures yet another possible explanation of what we just watched. The real trick is that none of this feels implausible as the writing is good enough that even the last bit fits like a puzzle piece and doesn’t feel forced. The more I think about Dark Places the more I’m liking it. 

The cast is excellent. Our lead is Robert Hardy as Foster. I vaguely remembered him from the Harry Potter movies but was impressed with his resume. The man worked a lot in supporting roles but here as the lead he is able to carry the movie. Where the movie shines though is the supporting cast. I’ve already mentioned that Joan Collins plays Mandeville’s sister Sarah. She is very good in the role as she normally was. Prescott the solicitor (lawyer for my fellow Americans) is played by the legendary Herbert Lom. I saved the best for last as Dr. Mandeville is played by Christopher Lee! This is an amazing cast that keeps things interesting to watch even when maybe there wasn’t a lot going on. 

I hadn’t heard of this one before pulling it out of my to watch pile. Not sure where I got it and who recommended it to me… though I suppose this could be a blind by. I normally check out anything Christopher Lee appeared in, which has led to some unfortunate experiences. Dark Places validates my desire to watch all things Lee though as it is a good spooky bit of fun. Not sure where you can find this one at, but it is worth a look. 

© Copyright 2023 John Shatzer

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