A fake aunt and uncle attempt to drive a nervous young heiress to suicide in order to collect her estate. Aided by the bayou, the would-be killers implement a series of terrifying ploys to suffocate the young girl in her o... more »wn madness. Andre de Toth (House of Wax) directs Merle Oberon and Elisha Cook Jr. in this excellent melodrama set in the dank, forbidding Louisiana bayous, the perfect aid to the mystery and violence of the story.« less
"This rarely seen movie is available again, and that's a greatpleasure, since Dark Waters is a minor mystery movie with beautifulMerle Oberon as a girl haunted by her own relatives. Franchot Tone acts well as her romantic interest, but Thomas Mitchell steals the show, giving a splendid performance, refreshing to see him as villain. The print (from UCLA) isn't first rate, but generally acceptable. Sound is often below par, which happens to be regrettable because of the very fine score by Miklos Rozsa. Recommended."
An excellent noirish thriller with an all-star cast!
Dave | Tennessee United States | 05/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Merle Oberon stars as Leslie Calvin, a shipwreck victim who visits her aunt and uncle (Fay Bainter and John Qualen) in the Louisiana bayous in an attempt to recover from the tragic ordeal she's been through. She's driven there by the kind Dr. George Grover (Franchot Tone), who is instantly attracted to her (Gee, what a surprise!). Also staying with her aunt and uncle are a mysterious houseguest, Mr. Sydney (Thomas Mitchell) and the creepy caretaker, "Cleeve" (Elisha Cook Jr.). You will never think of veteran character actor Thomas Mitchell ("Gone With the Wind", "It's a Wonderful Life") in the same way after watching his chilling performance in this movie!
What was supposed to be a safe haven ends up being a living nightmare for Leslie. She hears frightening sounds during the night, lights turn on and off, doors slam shut, and a mysterious voice calls her name, but always the answer from her seemingly loving relatives is the same: "I didn't hear anything" or "You were just having a nightmare, Leslie". Leslie's only joy comes whenever Dr. Grover comes to visit her, and they both fall in love. Leslie quickly realizes that Mr. Sydney, Cleeve, and her "aunt" and "uncle" are in reality all con artists out to get her inheritance. The scheme is the brainchild of Mr. Sydney, who uses Cleeve to do his "dirty work" and the "aunt" and "uncle" to trick Leslie into trusting them.
Pearson Jackson (Rex Ingram), the former caretaker of the house, tries to help Leslie but is brutally murdered and dumped in the swamp by Cleeve. Desperate for help and fearing for her life, she calls Dr. Grover, who rushes over to help. However, Mr. Sydney has his own sinister plans for Leslie and George (the swamp is a large place after all!) and will stop at nothing to get the money from her estate. Will Leslie and George be able to escape from these cold-blooded people? Watch and find out! I won't spoil the ending, but simply put it is very exciting and suspenseful. The all-star cast in this stylish classic was fabulous, especially Merle Oberon and Franchot Tone. And of course bug-eyed Elisha Cook Jr. played the creepy psycho to perfection!
1944's "Dark Waters" is a superb noirish thriller that reminds me of "Gaslight" and other similar classics. Disregard Leonard Maltin's review of this movie, as it's just furthur proof that he's an arrogant snob! In my opinion the only weak scene in the movie is when Dr. Grover and Leslie visit the Boudreaux family, but other than that it is a riveting suspenseful classic. The dvd from Image is a sad disappointment, though. The movie hasn't been restored well at all and it is painfully evident in both the picture and sound quality. There are absolutely no bonus features (unless you count scene selection!), not even a trailer. Thus the dvd seems very overpriced and my advice is to buy it used or wait until a restored version is released (Criterion Collection hopefully!)."
One of the few truly original films produced by Hollywood.
darragh o'donoghue | 08/30/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"'Dark Waters' is one of the great one-offs in Hollywood history, from a director used to throwing out great one-offs - the heroically idiosyncratic Andre de Toth. It features Merle Oberon as a woman who is attacked on all sides - by History, in the shape of the German U-boat that bombed the liner carrying her refugee family; by mental breakdown; by family; by a gang of criminals trying to exploit her fragility and make her even more mad; by supposedly benevolent male authority figures always telling her what's best for her; by a community where surveillance is the norm; by a film whose style is as fractured and stylised in its editing, narrative conceits and visual novelty as Oberon is emotionally; and by the very ground she walks on, the bayous of Louisiana. 'Dark Waters' is mixture of many currents in 40s Hollywood - the Freudian psychodrama; the woman's picture; the film noir; the Val Newton horror film - but has an exhilerating craziness all of its own."
Good Gothic Drama
Bobby Underwood | Manly NSW, Australia | 03/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Though the suspense is on the low burner in this Andre De Toth film starring beautiful Merle Oberon and Franchot Tone, those who enjoy a good gothic drama will find much to like here. Nice camera work from Archie Stout and John Mescall and a fine score from Miklos Rozsa help create a mood that is sustained throughout the entire film.
When tragedy aboard a ship during WWII leaves young Leslie in a fragile mental state, wondering why her parents drowned and she survived, she has nowhere to turn until a letter arrives from an aunt and uncle inviting her to stay with them in Louisiana. But the Rossignol estate holds unforseen danger for Leslie, and the peculiar things happening around her cause her to question her sanity.
The beautiful Rosignol is located in the middle of the bayou and the light and shadows of the swamp add to her sense of losing touch with reality. Her aunt and uncle seem strange somehow and Elisha Cook Jr. borders on creepy. Lights go on by themselves at night, a radio not plugged in begins to play, and a voice keeps calling her towards the swamp. Only the budding romance with the country doctor, George (Franchot Tone), offers her any fun and normal moments. Her visits with him to the large family down the road and their happy time at the town dance keep her going.
A turning point comes, however, when Pearson Jackson, a kind long time employee at Rosignol recently fired by Elisha Cook Jr., hears the voice in the swamp calling her name too, and Leslie begins to suspect she is not losing her mind at all. When her aunt, Emily (Fay Bainter), slips up and talks on about what a fine dancer Leslie's mother was, the pieces fall into place. She must get George to believe her before it's too late.
Joan Harrison, who worked on several Hitchcock films, including Rebecca and Suspicion, had a hand in the screenplay here. Those expecting edge of your seat tension will be let down by this offering. If you enjoy a good gothic drama which is more atmosphere and romance, however, you'll like this one due to the attractive cast and good ending. A fine film for a rainy night."
Rix Roundtree | Washington, DC United States | 12/19/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"From the opening scenes you?re engaged. Merle Oberon is the beautiful but mentally shaken oil heiress Leslie Calvin. Leslie's mental health is fragile because she and her family had to flee their East Indies home due to a Japanese invasion during the hell that is WWII. Then the ship that she sails away on is torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Virtually every passenger (including Leslie's parents) is killed in this incident except Leslie and 3 other survivors. Leslie Calvin has had an incredible run of bad luck and it's going to get worst.
In a New York hospital Ms. Calvin's New York doctor (played by Batman's Alan Napier) feels that Leslie would probably recuperate a lot faster if she were to stay with family. Unfortunately the only family Leslie has now is an Aunt (played brilliantly by Fay Bainter) and Uncle whom she has never met who live down in the Louisiana bayou on a sugar plantation called Rossignol. Leslie follows her doctor's advise, which is a bad idea, as Leslie's Aunt and Uncle aren't exactly as they seem and embark on a deadly plan to get Leslie out of the way in order to claim her inheritance. Suddenly Leslie hears voices in the night, lights mysteriously flicker and her "relatives" can't stop talking about Leslie's personal tragedies, which her bayou doctor played by Franchot Tone had instructed them not to do. The cruelest scene is when her relatives take Leslie to the movies to see a war picture complete with U-boats sinking ships and death.
One of the most moving scenes is where a depressed Leslie feels that she is losing her grip on her sanity. She feels that she does not deserve the love of her doctor (who had just proposed to her) because she feels that she is going mad. She feels that she should have died like her parents and be, "under the water with my mother and father."
When Leslie begins to realize that something is amiss with her aunt and uncle she forgets her fears regarding her mental state and becomes the answer-seeking heroine. Leslie enlists the doctor's aid and they set off to solve the mystery of Leslie's strange aunt and uncle, which leads to deadly consequences for all. At the end of the film Ms. Calvin and the doctor triumph and the good doctor ask Leslie if she all right, and Leslie lights up with the realization that she is indeed all right and she is a survivor."