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Dark Waters

Merle Oberon , Franchot Tone , André De Toth    Unrated   DVD
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Product Description

Amazon.ca

Love film noir? Here's an exotic variant--call it "bayou noir." Leslie Calvin (Merle Oberon), an oil heiress, is in shock several times over, having been run out of her East Indies home by Japanese troops and then losing her parents during a disaster at sea. Seeking safe haven, she looks up her only known relatives--whom she's never seen--an aunt (Fay Bainter) and uncle (John Qualen) who have just taken up residence at Rossignol, an unused sugar plantation in a remote Louisiana bayou. They seem harmless enough, albeit aggressively eccentric. But what to make of the eternally smiling, white-suited houseguest, Mr. Sydney (Thomas Mitchell), or the creepy Cleeve (Elisha Cook Jr.), a caretaker with nothing to take care of? Soon Leslie is hearing voices in the night, plus sinister stories from a former servant (Rex Ingram) who keeps popping out of the underbrush. Far from recuperating in peace, she fears she's sinking into madness, from which not even the kindly young local doctor (Franchot Tone) can rescue her....

Sounds like a backwater Gaslight, or a swampland Manderley without a Rebecca (and as a matter of fact, Rebecca veteran Joan Harrison worked on the script). Director André De Toth pumps up the atmosphere despite limited independent production resources, and he creates an unsettling mise en scène in which the heroine is either effaced by off-kilter camera angles or utterly isolated in vulnerable closeup. Unfortunately, Merle Oberon, notwithstanding her heartstopping Eurasian beauty, is about as expressive as a marble paperweight, and the screenplay doesn't so much advance as sink into the neighboring quicksand. Still, De Toth's inventiveness, Miklós Rósza's score, and some filigreed lighting by Bride of Frankenstein's John Mescall keep you watching. --Richard T. Jameson

Product Description

A fake aunt and uncle attempt to drive a nervous young heiress to suicide in order to collect her estate. Aided by the bayou, the would-be killers implement a series of terrifying ploys to suffocate the young girl in her own madness. Andre de Toth (House of Wax) directs Merle Oberon and Elisha Cook Jr. in this excellent melodrama set in the dank, forbidding Louisiana bayous, the perfect aid to the mystery and violence of the story.

Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Waters Dec 19 2001
Format:DVD
From the opening scenes you're engaged. Merle Oberon is the beautiful but mentally shaken oil heiress Leslie Calvin. Leslie's mental health is fragile because she and her family had to flee their East Indies home due to a Japanese invasion during the hell that is WWII. Then the ship that she sails away on is torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Virtually every passenger (including Leslie's parents) is killed in this incident except Leslie and 3 other survivors. Leslie Calvin has had an incredible run of bad luck and it's going to get worst.
In a New York hospital Ms. Calvin's New York doctor (played by Batman's Alan Napier) feels that Leslie would probably recuperate a lot faster if she were to stay with family. Unfortunately the only family Leslie has now is an Aunt (played brilliantly by Fay Bainter) and Uncle whom she has never met who live down in the Louisiana bayou on a sugar plantation called Rossignol. Leslie follow her doctor's advise, which is a bad idea, as Leslie's Aunt and Uncle aren't exactly as they seem and embark on a deadly plan to get Leslie out of the way in order to claim her inheritance. Suddenly Leslie hears voices in the night, lights mysteriously flicker and her "relatives" can't stop talking about Leslie's personal tragedies, which her bayou doctor played by Franchot Tone had instructed them not to do. The cruelest scene is when her relatives take Leslie to the movies to see a war picture complete with U-boats sinking ships and death.
One of the most moving scenes is where a depressed Leslie feels that she is losing her grip on her sanity. She feels that she does not deserve the love of her doctor (who had just proposed to her) because she feels that she is going mad.
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Format:DVD
'Dark Waters' is one of the great one-offs in Hollywood history, from a director used to throwing out great one-offs - the heroically idiosyncratic Andre de Toth. It features Merle Oberon as a woman who is attacked on all sides - by History, in the shape of the German U-boat that bombed the liner carrying her refugee family; by mental breakdown; by family; by a gang of criminals trying to exploit her fragility and make her even more mad; by supposedly benevolent male authority figures always telling her what's best for her; by a community where surveillance is the norm; by a film whose style is as fractured and stylised in its editing, narrative conceits and visual novelty as Oberon is emotionally; and by the very ground she walks on, the bayous of Louisiana. 'Dark Waters' is mixture of many currents in 40s Hollywood - the Freudian psychodrama; the woman's picture; the film noir; the Val Newton horror film - but has an exhilerating craziness all of its own.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Waters July 5 2000
By A Customer
Format:VHS Tape
Gothic horror film. An English woman travels to a Russian island to discover why her father, who recently died, was making payments to a convent. At times the plot is hard to follow, but the ending brings it all together. Lots of blood. Very creepy. A little like Hellraiser as far as gore.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Tense drama, fine actors Aug. 13 1999
By A Customer
Format:DVD
This rarely seen movie is available again, and that's a greatpleasure, since Dark Waters is a minor mystery movie with beautifulMerle Oberon as a girl haunted by her own relatives. Franchot Tone acts well as her romantic interest, but Thomas Mitchell steals the show, giving a splendid performance, refreshing to see him as villain. The print (from UCLA) isn't first rate, but generally acceptable. Sound is often below par, which happens to be regrettable because of the very fine score by Miklos Rozsa. Recommended.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  15 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent noirish thriller with an all-star cast! May 23 2005
By Dave - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
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!).
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the few truly original films produced by Hollywood. Aug. 30 2001
By darragh o'donoghue - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
'Dark Waters' is one of the great one-offs in Hollywood history, from a director used to throwing out great one-offs - the heroically idiosyncratic Andre de Toth. It features Merle Oberon as a woman who is attacked on all sides - by History, in the shape of the German U-boat that bombed the liner carrying her refugee family; by mental breakdown; by family; by a gang of criminals trying to exploit her fragility and make her even more mad; by supposedly benevolent male authority figures always telling her what's best for her; by a community where surveillance is the norm; by a film whose style is as fractured and stylised in its editing, narrative conceits and visual novelty as Oberon is emotionally; and by the very ground she walks on, the bayous of Louisiana. 'Dark Waters' is mixture of many currents in 40s Hollywood - the Freudian psychodrama; the woman's picture; the film noir; the Val Newton horror film - but has an exhilerating craziness all of its own.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tense drama, fine actors Aug. 13 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
This rarely seen movie is available again, and that's a greatpleasure, since Dark Waters is a minor mystery movie with beautifulMerle Oberon as a girl haunted by her own relatives. Franchot Tone acts well as her romantic interest, but Thomas Mitchell steals the show, giving a splendid performance, refreshing to see him as villain. The print (from UCLA) isn't first rate, but generally acceptable. Sound is often below par, which happens to be regrettable because of the very fine score by Miklos Rozsa. Recommended.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story, excellent cast, fabulous score but desperately in need of restoration work. June 28 2008
By Penumbra - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
"Dark Waters" is a 1944 film that begins with a story of survival after a horrific torpedo attack on a civilian freighter. It soon turns into a Southern Gothic tale with steamy swamps, Spanish moss, Hollywood quick sand with the consistency of oatmeal, and creepy men in tropical white suits.

To escape the war, Leslie Calvin (Merle Oberon) flees Batavia with her parents on an old merchant freighter. Soon into the voyage, the ship is sunk by enemy torpedoes. The few survivors are dying off as they spend several horrific days drifting under the relentless sun with a very small ration of drinking water. Eventually three survivors are found, rescued and taken to a New York hospital for treatment. Leslie can be treated for the physical effects of starvation and exposure, but the psychological trauma is much more difficult to get over.

After she regains consciousness, Leslie receives a warm and charming letter from her mother's sister. Aunt Emily assures Leslie that she is loved and more than welcome in at their Louisiana plantation home, Rossignol.

With no family and nowhere else to go, Leslie telegrams Aunt Emily that she has been discharged from the hospital and is taking a train to Louisiana. But when Leslie arrives at the train station there is no one to meet her. After waiting for hours under the hot sun Leslie faints. She regains consciousness in the care of local physician, Dr George Grover (Franchot Tone).

Dr. Grover, who is familiar with the headline version of Leslie's story, convinces her to allow him to drive her out to Rossignol rather than taking the first train back to New York. When they reach the plantation, Aunt Emily (Fay Bainter) seems confused. She tells them that, while Leslie is very welcome at Rossignol, her telegram never arrived and no one was expecting her. Aunt Emily and Uncle Norbert are already entertaining two house guests, Mr. Sydney (Thomas Mitchell) and Cleeve (Elisha Cook, Jr.).

The doctor leaves instructions that under no circumstances should Leslie be reminded of her recent ordeal; every effort should be made to provide diversion and entertainment. But before Dr. Grover can drive out of sight the other residents of Rossignol are speaking to Leslie about the shipwreck and interrogating her about her experience. Soon Leslie is hearing voices calling to her at night, seeing lights mysteriously turn off and back on, and questioning her very sanity.

"Dark Waters" has an interesting and unusual story. The cast is excellent. Most notable is Thomas Mitchell as a villain, unlike his better known roles as Uncle Billy in It's A Wonderful Life (Two-Disc Collector's Set) (B/W & Color), or Gerald O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (Two-Disc Edition). It also features a Miklos Rozsa score.

This DVD version is a release from the UCLA film and television archive. Little preservation work is evident here. The film is grainy, dust and artifacts move across the picture like animation, the black is too dark and the white seems overexposed. But then, this isn't really a well known film, and they probably figure it doesn't rate the same treatment as Casablanca (Two-Disc Special Edition) or Citizen Kane (Two-Disc Special Edition). Fans of this film will be grateful to have it released on DVD at all.

There are no special features.

Recommended.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark Waters Dec 19 2001
By Rix Roundtree - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
From the opening scenes you?re engaged. Merle Oberon is the beautiful but mentally shaken oil heiress Leslie Calvin. Leslie's mental health is fragile because she and her family had to flee their East Indies home due to a Japanese invasion during the hell that is WWII. Then the ship that she sails away on is torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat. Virtually every passenger (including Leslie's parents) is killed in this incident except Leslie and 3 other survivors. Leslie Calvin has had an incredible run of bad luck and it's going to get worst.

In a New York hospital Ms. Calvin's New York doctor (played by Batman's Alan Napier) feels that Leslie would probably recuperate a lot faster if she were to stay with family. Unfortunately the only family Leslie has now is an Aunt (played brilliantly by Fay Bainter) and Uncle whom she has never met who live down in the Louisiana bayou on a sugar plantation called Rossignol. Leslie follows her doctor's advise, which is a bad idea, as Leslie's Aunt and Uncle aren't exactly as they seem and embark on a deadly plan to get Leslie out of the way in order to claim her inheritance. Suddenly Leslie hears voices in the night, lights mysteriously flicker and her "relatives" can't stop talking about Leslie's personal tragedies, which her bayou doctor played by Franchot Tone had instructed them not to do. The cruelest scene is when her relatives take Leslie to the movies to see a war picture complete with U-boats sinking ships and death.

One of the most moving scenes is where a depressed Leslie feels that she is losing her grip on her sanity. She feels that she does not deserve the love of her doctor (who had just proposed to her) because she feels that she is going mad. She feels that she should have died like her parents and be, "under the water with my mother and father."

When Leslie begins to realize that something is amiss with her aunt and uncle she forgets her fears regarding her mental state
and becomes the answer-seeking heroine. Leslie enlists the doctor's aid and they set off to solve the mystery of Leslie's strange aunt and uncle, which leads to deadly consequences for all. At the end of the film Ms. Calvin and the doctor triumph and the good doctor ask Leslie if she all right, and Leslie lights up with the realization that she is indeed all right and she is a survivor.
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