Don't go near the swamp! A ferryman who was wrongly hanged for a murder is now a ghost, and he's more than a little perturbed. He wants revenge, and he's inflicting strange, violent deaths on the townsfolk responsible for ... more »his execution. Steeped in gothic atmosphere, "Strangler of the Swamp" recreates director Frank Wisbar's extremely stylish classic fantasy film, "Fahrman Maria," made in Germany before Wisbar came to Hollywood. His inventive use of lighting, camera and sets makes "Strangler" a stand-out.« less
"To appreciate this movie, we need to remember that, before the era of the Muliplex and cable TV, people expected to see two movies at most theaters, the "double feature." (You could also walk in on the middle of a film, but that's another issue.) As a result, there was a whole industry of B-movies, to give the moviegoers a bit more for their money, and every now and then, the B-movie gave you some interesting watching.Such a movie is Strangler of the Swamp. It's not heavyweight, the story isn't classic, but it's carried out subtly and, as others have noted, with a great deal of atmosphere.The movie takes place in a little town separated from the mainland by a swamp. The swamp can only be crossed by an old-fashioned rope ferry--the kind where a ferryman pulls the boat back and forth for a small fee. The town has a nasty secret--the old ferry operator, Ferryman Douglas, was wrongfully accused of murder and virtually lynched. His ghost haunts the swamp and quietly strangles those who killed him and their families in ways that seem accidental.The gloomy atmospehere is so nicely done that when the pretty granddaughter of the most recent ferryman, killed by Douglas, shows up, she is like a bright light. She decides to remain in her home town as the new ferry operator, like a Lovecraft character drawn back to an ancestral horror.This short piece lasts less than an hour, but the time is just about right. The oppressive atmosphere of the swamp and constant mist create a mood of corruption as certainly as a Tennessee Williams novel. The avenging ghost, played by Charles Middleton, is a spectral character, little seen but readily identified by his strong rich voice.Ferryman Douglas' killings seem less a stalking horror than a rough justice on this secretive little town. In a poignent moment, Douglas pulls the boat across and tells his passenger, who now understands who he is, that "once this was my boat," a plain statement that tells us of a simple life ended by others' meanness.For the price, worth a place in your library if you like the ghost story genre."
Twice Time Around
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Strangler of the Swamp is a poverty-row remake of German-born director Frank Wisbar's more prestigious Fährmann Maria, filmed in 1936, during the rise of the Nazi regime. The original version is recognized today as a true landmark of German sound cinema. It's American counterpart, made for PRC, when Wisbar had emigrated to the United States in the early forties, necessarily pales by comparison. However, there's a certain dignity, even charm, in a film conceived as nothing more tan second feature fodder. The story is simple enough: the ghost of an unjustly executed ferryman preys on the men that accused him of murder, years before. Wisbar's production gets adequate performances from Rosemary LaPlanche (Miss America, 1941), future movie director Blake Edwards in a leading-man role, and perennial favorite Charles "Ming the Merciless" Middleton as the avenging specter, and boasts superior low-key photography, art direction (mainly two set pieces) and an original musical score. As such, it has little in common with PRC's standard fare and compares favorably with Edgar Ulmer's films for the same studio. While no masterpiece, this is a better-than-average companion piece to Wisbar's own Devil Bat's Daughter, also released in 1946."
A pleasant surprise
Markus Risser | Berlin, Deutschland | 09/12/2000
(5 out of 5 stars)
"To be honest, I don't quite remember how I ended up ordering this particular film (somehow the recommendation robot must have something to do with it ), but it definitely had me hooked the moment I pressed Play on the remote.As pointed out in the amazon-description this is sort of a remake of Wisbars earlier German effort "Faehrmann Maria" and therefore is less a 'horror thriller' than a dark, moody fairytale. The plot circles about villagers housing in a swamp area which have lynched an innocent man some years ago. The hanged man swore deadly revenge to all involved in his killing and does this quite effectively. When young Maria shows up, granddaughter of the real criminal, and falls in love with Chris Sanders, next on the stranglers list, the real trouble starts. Well, sort of. This is not an action flick and, this has to be said, the climatic standoff between strangler, Maria, Chris and his father in an abandoned church is a bit of a letdown but I figure that this has something to do with the budget (if the movie actually had one - you can't be too sure when you're talking 'bout a PRC movie). But you watch a film like this not because of the plot (as a matter of fact, we are introduced to our leading characters over 20 minutes in the film - considering that the entire picture runs 58 minutes, it's quite hard to put up some characterization, but somehow it works) . You watch it because of the stylish, dark photography, which puts Dreyers "Vampyr" into mind (not exactly surprising, as the German version even starred Sibylle Schmitz of "Vampyr"), the scary swamp settings and an overall eerie attitude. Besides that the movie is quite intelligently written, well-acted and in its own way haunting. The DVD transfer is really good considering the age of the material (I've seen FAR worse transfers of younger films), even the sound is quite understandable. Only letdown: with 58 minutes of film, why didn't Image pair it with "Devil Bat's Daughter"? A trailer or some accompanying material would've been fine, too.But overall enthusiastically recommended to all who have the slightest interest in expressionistic filmwork - it's a rare example of an American film of that kind."
Great atmospheric film
Russroom | Summit, NJ | 10/15/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I don't remember seeing ever seeing this one as a kid in the 1970's, but it's pretty cool if a bit simplistic. It's only about an hour long and it's almost like watching a play. The swamp is richly spooky, and the strangler delivers the goods.
If you like older, classic horror, this one's worth a look."
Rising From the Cinematic Dead
Scott T. Rivers | Los Angeles, CA USA | 09/05/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"German writer-director Frank Wisbar made one of the finest low-budget horror films of the 1940s, "Strangler of the Swamp." Produced by PRC, this little-known "B" movie was a 58-minute remake of Wisbar's 1936 classic "Fahrmann Maria." Wisbar duplicated the dark, misty atmosphere of his earlier film with a paltry $20,000 and a one-week shooting schedule. Though ignored upon its 1946 release, "Strangler of the Swamp" managed to rise from the cinematic dead - thanks to a chapter in historian William K. Everson's 1974 book, "Classics of the Horror Film." Rather than create a traditional horror movie, Wisbar emphasized mood and expressionistic style in this gothic tale. The plot centers on a ghostly ferryman (played by Charles Middleton) who swore his vengeance upon the swampland villagers responsible for his wrongful hanging - including their descendants, one of whom must sacrifice their life to end the shadowy curse. PRC's shoddy production values actually work to Wisbar's advantage. Except for a few brief exterior shots, "Strangler of the Swamp" exists in a claustrophobic, studio-bound world. The performances are surprisingly restrained, with Middleton making the most of his limited spectral presence. "Strangler of the Swamp" is not the rediscovered masterpiece some have claimed, yet it remains a textbook example of Poverty Row filmmaking."