The House by the River (1950)

Genres - Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Drama, Period Film  |   Run Time - 88 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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Louis Hayward oozes haughty, amoral creepiness in director Fritz Lang's sole foray into the Victorian Gothic mode. Hayward's Stephen Byrne is an unsuccessful writer who nonetheless leads a comfortable life in a beautiful riverfront home due to his wife's fortune. After accidentally strangling the maid in a fit of perverse desire, he dumps her body in the river with the help of his brother John (Lee Bowman). Far from feeling guilty, he turns the maid's disappearance into a promotional campaign for his latest book, begins writing a new novel based on the crime, and even does his best to frame his brother for the murder. But the maid's body literally comes back to haunt him thanks to the river's uncooperative tides and his brother's accumulating sense of guilt. Lang beautifully evokes the Victorian era with his customary attention to detail. Cinematographer Edward J. Cronjager's low-key lighting fills the Byrnes mansion with appropriately gloomy shadows, and the moonlit river scenes make it seem as if nature itself is offended by the crime. Avant-garde composer George Antheil's haunting score is the perfect accompaniment to this chilling and unconventional exercise in suspense.