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!).