House by the River (1950)

“There’s a limit to this business of being brothers.”

Synopsis:
A sociopathic writer (Louis Hayward) enlists the help of his brother (Lee Bowman) in hiding the body of a maid (Dorothy Patrick) he’s accidentally strangled.

Genres:

Review:
This little-seen historical melodrama by Fritz Lang is arguably the film in his oeuvre “with the strongest camp appeal”. Featuring a sociopathic protagonist we come to despise within 10 minutes of his appearance on-screen, the gothic storyline moves inexorably towards Hayward’s downfall — though there remains a fair amount of suspense in wondering just how he’ll get there, and how many other people he’ll manage to hurt along the way. As noted in Digitally Obsessed’s review, “It’s a pretty trashy soap opera of a movie, overheated and crammed with melodrama, the sort of picture that will have you cheering the hero and hissing the villain” — and the film does suffer a bit from its rather predictable set-up (including an obligatory would-be romance between Hayward’s wife [Jane Wyatt] and Bowman). However, Lang does a fine job maintaining moody atmosphere throughout — thanks in part to Edward Cronjager’s cinematography — and Hayward is surprisingly memorable and weaselly in the lead role. Worth a look, but not must-see viewing.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Louis Hayward as Stephen
  • Edward Cronjager’s atmospheric cinematography

Must See?
No, though it’s worth a one-time look.

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One Response to “House by the River (1950)”

  1. Not a must, but not a waste of time.

    I’ve known of this Lang title because of the Peary book but, until now (via YouTube), I was never able to find it anywhere. And, having read in the assessment of its “campy” and “trashy” nature, I looked forward to it as such. Although, knowing Lang’s work as I do, I found it hard to believe that Lang could go very deeply into camp waters (borderline-trashy, yes, perhaps, but not actual camp).

    On seeing the film, I don’t see any camp aspect at all. It’s a solid, gothic melodrama – it plays well and is shot well, and holds interest as it goes. The only possible hint of camp arrives in the film’s final moments, but that’s only because the ending pumps up the jam slightly in an unexpected (and satisfying) way.

    ‘HBTR’ is standard Lang fare and will please those who are the director’s fans. The plot contains a few interesting elements (particularly the dynamic between the brothers) and, having just revisited Hitchcock’s ‘Rope’, I found myself taken up with the different view of two men involved in the same murder.

    Overall, above-average.

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