Criminal logo

Crimes at the Dark House


By Tom BakerPublished 2 months ago Updated 14 days ago 3 min read

Crimes at the Dark House is a 1940 British Victorian gothic melodrama starring the aptly named Tod Slaughter, who was one of the first persons, if not the first, to portray Sweeney Todd. It's based loosely on the 1860 novel The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, who was a contemporary and friend of Sir Charles Dickens. Collins authored The Moonstone, which I read in college, as well as a cute story about a killer canopy bed in a "No-Tell Motel"; or rather, an Inn that would have made Burke and Hare proud.

The film opens with a man being spiked through the ear by an assailant revealed to be Todd, who laughs maniacally over his horrible deed, right before assuming the identity of "Sir Percival," the man he has just murdered.

Leaving Australia, where he and Sir Percival Glyde have been searching for gold, he journeys back to Merry Old England, all the better to pass himself off as Sir Percival and marry an unfortunate young woman (Silvia Marriot) whose marriage with the fat, sleazy and utterly repellent Sir Percival has been, more or less, arranged (this is the 1860s, or thereabouts). Meanwhile, her long-lost sister languishes in an asylum run by the evil and incredibly short Dr. Fosco, and Sir Percival himself begins to romance the chambermaid (Rita Grant). When she gets suspicious and threatens him, she gets murdered, and then she's thrown into the river. The film is, for its period, really rather violent.

And it is not one murder "Sir Percival" stops at. He murders again readily enough when the fancy strikes him. Meanwhile, the long-lost sister of Lady Percival Glyde ("Laurie Fairlie") escapes from the clutches of the Bedlam where she has been detained like a witch in an old-time fairy tale. She wanders the grounds in white (hence, the "Woman in White") and passes for the family ghost. Sir Percival is alarmed by this as it is said that Anne Catherick hates her father, reputedly HIM (which suggests incest, but this must be inferred). Fosco and Sir. Percival then get the confounded idea to switch identities of Lady Glyde and her sister, Anne Catherick, confining one to the mental home, while killing off the other by leaving her too close to an open window on a drafty night. Really.

The whole thing ends in a fiery climax in a church that is a fitting culmination, one supposes, of the blackly humorous evil that is the heart and soul of the mad imposter. It's quite a grueling scene, I might add, at the risk of giving away too much of it. At any rate, there's something reminiscent of an old Frankenstein movie in the end, only the Monster here is undoubtedly a man (though one possessed of no morals, no scruples, and delight in doing EVIL).

Tod Slaughter, as we previously noted, starred in the original Sweeney Todd, along with other, more forgettable melodramas, written and directed as "quota quickies" by George King. (These "Quota Quickies" were films churned out to fulfill a government rule that a certain amount of films released in Britain had to be made by British studios.) Sweeney Todd, the hideous "Demon Barber," slew his customers, dumped their bodies down a greased chute (he had a revolving barber chair on an axis), and then allowed his partner, Mrs. Lovett, to dismember them and cook them into meat pies, to be sold on the streets.

It was only the stench of death from an adjoining building, a cathedral, in this case, that alerted the authorities. There is some conjecture that the story of Sweeney Todd is based in fact.

There is nothing so sensationalistic here. Be that as it may, Crimes at the Dark House is a pleasantly unpleasant run through an old-fashioned Victorian murder ballad, one as atmospheric and haunting as what you'd nearly expect. And, well, nobody expects to die.

Crimes At The Dark House (1940) by George King High Quality Full Movie

movie reviewfiction

About the Creator

Tom Baker

Author of Haunted Indianapolis, Indiana Ghost Folklore, Midwest Maniacs, Midwest UFOs and Beyond, Scary Urban Legends, 50 Famous Fables and Folk Tales, and Notorious Crimes of the Upper Midwest.:

Reader insights

Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

How does it work?

Add your insights

Comments (1)

Sign in to comment
  • Randy Wayne Jellison-Knock2 months ago

    Sounds fun. Have to come back to it.

Find us on social media

Miscellaneous links

  • Explore
  • Contact
  • Privacy Policy
  • Terms of Use
  • Support

© 2024 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.