UK / Ealing / 1945
Director: Robert Hamer
Writers: Diana Morgan, Robert Hamer, from the play by Roland Pertwee
Cast: Googie Withers, Mervyn Johns, Gordon Jackson, Sally Ann Howes, Mary Merrall, Jean Ireland, Colin Simpson, Catherine Lacey
Robert Hamer made his feature film debut as director (after an un-credited work on the classic San Demetrio, London ) with this absorbing period crime melodrama that caught the fascination at the time for Victorian-based crime films, where death lurked behind the prim lace curtains (Hamer went on to direct the Victorian crime comedy classic Kind Hearts and Coronets ).
The setting is Brighton in the 1890s and Mervyn Johns is an autocratic chemist and public analyst who rules his wife Mary Merrall, daughters Sally Ann Howes and Jean Ireland and son Gordon Jackson with iron discipline. Jackson, whose attempts at romance are thwarted by his father, seeks solace in a pub where he becomes infatuated with landlord’s wife Googie Withers.
She turns out to be a femme fatale with homicidal intentions and involves Jackson in a plot to kill her husband Garry Marsh, stealing strychnine from Johns’ shop and poisoning Marsh whose death is then attributed to lockjaw. But the police become suspicious and exhume the body – and Johns is asked to examine the corpse. Withers attempts to blackmail Johns by threatening to implicate his son – but Johns refuses to be diverted from his duty.