In London, the teenager Paul Grahame (John Howard Davies) lives with his upper class but financially broken family.
His wasteful mother Hester Grahame (Valerie Hobson) is a compulsive buyer, spending all the family money in new expensive dresses, jewels and objects for their home. His father Richard Grahame (Hugh Sinclair) is a gambler, losing money in the horse races. His uncle Oscar Cresswell (Ronald Squire) is permanently covering the Grahame family debts.
When the servant Bassett (John Mills) is hired, Paul finds that he can predict the winner of the horses' races rocking his wooden horse. Paul asks Bassett to become his partner, betting their money in the races, trying to prove that he is lucky and silencing the permanent whisper of the house needing more money.
But the prize is high and fatal.
Directed: Anthony Pelissier
DivX 5 / MP3
Suspenseful, intriguing, disturbing, heartbreaking, atmospherically crafted by director and photographer, this is a gem of a movie that was too out of the rut to be appreciated by audiences in its day. The characters are not only totally believable but so convincingly acted that few viewers will have any difficulty accepting the plot's key supernatural premise. Because they are so credibly realistic, however, some of the people in this movie (the lad's mother and father, for instance) are far from sympathetic. This trait doubtless alienated contemporary audiences even further, particularly those looking for escape into an idealistic world of smilingly duty-bound, hardworking mothers and bumbling yet well-intentioned dads.
As stated, all the players are excellent—including producer John Mills who cast himself in a small but key role—but three are so outstanding it would churlish not to mention them individually: Valerie Hobson is perfect as the selfish, socially aspiring mum; John Howard Davies is likewise brilliant as the driven, psychotic boy of the title; and it's great to see Ronald Squire utilizing his talents to the full in a major role.
The pace never slackens and the movie incorporates so many unforgettably powerful scenes, it would be impossible to single just three or four for special praise.
In short: a masterpiece from screenwriter/director Anthony Pelissier (who handled only a handful of movies), photographer Desmond Dickinson and a fine array of artists and craftspeople under the control of actor/producer John Mills.
# This was the first time anyone had tried putting D.H. Lawrence on film