A Columbia quickie, on the Gothic end of the noir spectrum, directed with great flair by Joseph H. Lewis, director of Gun Crazy (1950) and The Big Combo (1955), and thus one of the most significant figures in noir. Nina Foch, pre An American in Paris is Julia Ross, a middle-class working girl on her uppers and desperate for a job. George Macready, pre-Gilda, is Ralph, quick to temper and overly interested in knives. His mother, Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty) is the only who can control her son and is overly protective. She has set up a whole personnel agency just to find the right live-in personal secretary. There’s a great point made about no family and no attachments and we’ll soon learn why.
Julia goes to work one night and wakes up a prisoner in a rand cliff-side house in Cornwall, with the staff told she’s Ralph’s wife and so nuts they must ignore what she says. Why are they doing this to her? How will she escape? The film bears a loose resemblance to Rebecca and is worth seeing today for the ingenious ways Lewis figures a woman imprisoned in a world of shadows (see images below).
The Arrow Academy release features a very good introductory essay by Adrian Martin and an intriguing discussion by Nora Fiore, of Nitrate Diva Fame, on the relationship between the film and the social context it was made and released in.