The Red House (film)

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The Red House
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDelmer Daves
Screenplay byDelmer Daves and Albert Maltz (uncredited)
Based onThe Red House
by George Agnew Chamberlain
Produced bySol Lesser
CinematographyBert Glennon
Edited byMerrill G. White
Music byMiklós Rózsa
Sol Lesser Productions
Thaila Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
  • February 7, 1947 (1947-02-07)[1]
Running time
100 minutes
CountryUnited States

The Red House is a 1947 American horror film[1][2] directed by Delmer Daves, and starring Edward G. Robinson, Lon McCallister, Judith Anderson, Rory Calhoun, Allene Roberts, and Julie London. Its plot follows a young woman whose adoptive parents are concealing a secret involving an abandoned farmhouse located deep in the woods on their sprawling property. It is based on the 1945 novel of the same name by George Agnew Chamberlain. The screenplay is by director Delmer Davis and Albert Maltz, uncredited.[3]


Handicapped farmer Pete Morgan and his sister Ellen live on an isolated farm with their adopted daughter, Meg. They keep to themselves and are viewed as mysterious by the nearby town. Now a teenager, Meg convinces Pete to hire one of her 12th-grade high school classmates, Nath Storm, to come help with chores on the farm. On the first evening, when it is time for him to go home, Nath says he is going to take a shortcut through the old woods. The woods are part of Pete's property and he forbids anyone from entering them. Pete becomes agitated, insisting the woods are dangerous and contain a haunted house which is painted red, and that Nath must stay out.

After traveling through the woods in the dark, Nath returns spooked, after hearing moans and yells. However, a few days later, he is embarrassed at his cowardice and goes through the woods again after dark. Nath is struck from behind and knocked down into a stream. He returns to the farm believing that Pete hit him, but Meg and Ellen say Pete has been in the room with them since Nath left. Soon, both Nath and Meg become obsessed with searching for the mysterious "red house" and agree to go into the woods every Sunday, which is the one day Nath has some free time, to look for it. They have no luck.

In the meantime, Meg begins to fall in love with Nath, but his jealous and shrewd girlfriend Tibby has other plans for him. Meanwhile, it is revealed that Pete has secretly given local handyman and petty thug Teller rights to hunt on the land, as long as he keeps everyone else off of the property.

One Sunday, Nath cannot get out of a date with Tibby, so Meg goes off on her own to look for the red house. She finds it, located in a small gully a few miles from Pete's farm along an unused dirt road. Teller fires at her to scare her away. Running away, Meg falls and breaks her leg. That evening, when Meg does not return, Nath ventures into the woods to find her and brings her back to the farm. Pete is furious that both young people defied his warning to stay out of the woods and he outright fires Nath, banishing him from the farm and from seeing Meg again.

Some time later, Nath has been working for his mother at a local general store in town. With Nath's encouragement, his mother marries a long-time admirer and goes off for several weeks on her honeymoon, leaving Nath to mind the store. Nath soon takes additional work for the summer at another farm close to town. As Meg recovers from her broken leg, Pete begins to crack up. He starts calling her Jeannie, and becomes controlling and domineering. Ellen and Pete have a conversation about how it was that several years ago they rented the red house to a young couple. Pete was in love with the wife, Jeannie since before she was married, but apparently Jeannie did not love Pete because she married another man.

Nath catches Tibby flirting with Teller and sucker punches him. He is convinced that Teller is somehow responsible for Meg's broken leg. Nath confronts Tibby and finally learns how vain and selfish she is. Teller then punches Nath, while Tibby watches with satisfaction. Afterward, Teller and Tibby leave hand in hand, while Nath lays in the muddy creek.

One evening, Ellen decides to burn the red house down, to end Pete's obsession. As she walks through the woods, Teller, mistaking her for Nath, shoots and severely wounds her. Meg, having heard the gunshot, finds Ellen then rushes back to tell Pete, who refuses to act to help his sister. Meg phones Nath for help and he says he will bring a stretcher after he calls the sheriff and the doctor. Pete fails to dissuade Meg from returning to the woods. By the time Nath arrives, Ellen is dead. In the meantime, Teller goes to Tibby's home and persuades her to leave town with him in her father's truck. They sneak off into the country roads. They are pulled over and Teller makes a run for it and gets shot at by the state police and is apprehended. Tibby, still in the truck, is caught as his accomplice.

Meg and Nath bring Ellen's body back. Meg demands the truth about the red house and who Jeannie is. Pete finally confesses that Ellen had been keeping the secret for him, about Pete being in love with a woman named Jeannie who later married another man. The married couple had a little girl (Meg). When Meg was 2 years old, the couple decided to move away because Pete was still so infatuated with Jeannie. Pete went to the red house to plead with Jeannie to choose between her husband and him. As they heard her husband returning, Jeannie began screaming. To stop her, Pete covered her mouth, but suffocated her. While Pete claims that he was just trying to keep her quiet and that her death was accidental, he admits to Meg that he subsequently killed the husband in cold blood. Pete buried the bodies in the basement of the ice house that sits next to the red house, and he lives in fear that they will be discovered. However, since Jeannie's husband told everyone they were leaving town, no one ever suspected they were murdered. Rather than abandon the infant, Pete and Ellen adopted little Meg. While Pete was confessing to Meg about the red house and Meg's parents, Nath has slipped out of the house taking Pete's rifle with him.

Meg convinces Pete to help Nath who has gone to the red house after Teller with Pete's rifle. Pete agrees, this "could make everything right". Pete takes Meg to the red house. By this point, however, he has gone completely out of his mind by the familiar surroundings of the red house and thinks Meg is actually Jeannie, who is leaving him again. He begins to re-live the experience, puts his hand over her mouth and starts suffocating her. Nath and the sheriff show up in the nick of time. Pete takes off in his truck, but drives into the ice house, where the truck sinks in the large pond formed by the melted ice, and Pete drowns.

The final scene shows Nath and Meg a few days later, talking about starting a new life together as they watch the smoke from the red house, which Nath has burned down in keeping with Ellen's wishes. Nath tells Meg "Looking forward is much better than looking back."



The film was partly shot in Sonora, California.[1]


Critical response[edit]

A. H. Weiler in The New York Times enjoyed the picture, calling it "an edifying offering, which should supply horror-hungry audiences with the chills of the month...told intelligently and with mounting tension," citing an "excellent" Edward G. Robinson, Judith Anderson's "taut performance," a "fine" Lon McCallister and a "uniformly good cast [together with] Delmar Daves' fluid direction...and an appropriately macabre musical assist from Miklos Rozsa."[4]

Critic Dave Sindelar gives the film a positive review: "It's not perfect; it's a little too long, so you end up figuring some of the final revelations before you should, and it gets a little repetitive at times, but the strong acting and some memorable images make it worth the investment."[5]

The film is also praised as a "Murky psychological thriller with resonant settings and an emotive Rózsa score".[6]

Copyright status[edit]

Chamberlain's 1943 novel has no copyright registration at the Library of Congress. The five issues of The Saturday Evening Post in which the story was serialized were registered for copyright by The Curtis Publishing Co.; the copyrights of all five issues were renewed in 1973 by The Saturday Evening Post Company.[7]

The movie was registered for copyright by Thalia Productions (LP864; 7 February 1947); that copyright was not renewed.[8]

The film was highlighted in episode 1 of Martin Scorsese's documentary film A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies.

A condensed version (edited down to 20 minutes) is occasionally shown on "The New Condensed Classics" on the Silver Screen Classics channel in Canada.

Home media[edit]

The Red House was released as a two disc Blu-ray/DVD combo set on April 24, 2012 in the US and other countries from Film Chest and HD Cinema Classics. Digitally restored in high definition and transferred from original 35mm elements, this DVD/Blu-ray combo pack includes original 35mm trailer, before-and-after restoration demo and an original movie art postcard.[9] It was released again on March 29, 2016 as a standalone Blu-ray by The Film Detective. This release contains no special features.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "The Red House". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. American Film Institute. Retrieved November 22, 2020.
  2. ^ Jancovich 2014, p. 161.
  3. ^ The Red House, accessed September 8, 2031
  4. ^ "Horror for Adults". The New York Times. March 17, 1947. Retrieved October 18, 2020.
  5. ^ Sindelar, Dave Archived 2008-12-01 at the Wayback Machine. Movie of the Day Archives, film review, June 21, 2004. Accessed: August 17, 013.
  6. ^ Selby, Spencer. Dark City: The Film Noir. McFarland & Company (1997). ISBN 0-7864-0478-7.
  7. ^ Film Superlist: Motion Pictures in the U.S. Public Domain (1940–1949), page 665.
  8. ^ Film Superlist: Motion Pictures in the U.S. Public Domain (1940–1949), page 637.
  9. ^ Harley Lond (April 24, 2012). "New on DVD and Blu-ray Week of April 24". FilmCrave. Retrieved April 24, 2012.
  10. ^ "The Red House Blu-ray". Retrieved March 29, 2016.


  • Jancovich, Mark (2014). ""The Murderer's Mind": Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart, and the Monstrous Psychologies of 1940s Horror Film". In DeGiglio-Bellemare, Mario; Ellbé, Charlie; Woofter, Kristopher (eds.). Recovering 1940s Horror Cinema: Traces of a Lost Decade. Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books. pp. 161–179. ISBN 978-1-498-50380-8.

Further reading[edit]

  1. ^ Spencer Selby (1984). Dark City: The Film Noir. McFarland Classic. ISBN 0-7864-0478-7.

External links[edit]