Robert Hamer made his feature film debut as director (after uncredited work on the classic San Demetrio, London) with absorbing period crime melodrama Pink String and Sealing Wax 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.
UK / Ealing / 89 minutes / 1945
Writers:Diana Morgan, Robert Hamer, from the play by Roland Pertwee,
Googie Withers as Pearl Bond
Mervyn Johns as Edward Sutton
Gordon Jackson as David Sutton
Frederick Piper as Dr. Pepper
Garry Marsh as Joe Bond
Jean Ireland as Victoria Sutton
Sally Ann Howes as Peggy Sutton
Mary Merrall as Ellen Sutton
Catherine Lacey as Miss Porter
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