Friday, December 18, 2009

Film: Daughter of Darkness [1948 United Kingdom]


Yesterday while looking for a copy of "Dracula" (1992 Ryder/Oldman) at Hastings Books & Gifts, I saw this DVD. The black/white immediately caught my attention, and also the Vivien Leigh look of the actress on it (Siobahn McKenna). From the 1960s? No, from 1948! I'm a sucker for '40s films, and this being a Gothic/Noir...well you know (wink). From the back panel:

"An atmospheric Gothic chiller following an Irish maid with an irresistable attraction to men. With the reputation as a temptress where even the local priest is after her, sexual desire soon descends into brutal psychopathy with a grave ending!

A startling film for its time, Daughter of Darkness posed censorship problems at the time of its release, due to its dark material, and has since remained a lost film waiting to be rediscovered."

I watched it last night and loved it! McKenna is excellent as Emmi Beaudine, a natural beauty who innocently possesses a powerful sexuality. Men are violently attracted to her, obsessive; one man rapes her. Women are equally violent towards her: Jealous and suspicious. When she's driven from the Irish village as servant to the local parish priest, she arrives on an English farm as a servant. History repeats itself and Emmi finds herself in similar troubles with angry hostile females and hotly arduous males. Meanwhile she's honestly puzzled and discomforted by the intensity of the raw emotions constantly swirling around her. Emmi is accused of being "a brazen slut," though she's simply going about life seeking acceptance and the warmth of family and friends. Emmi is soon fired from her servant's job on the English farm; desperate, she has nowhere to go and fears a repeat of her usual experiences elsewhere. Tensions swiftly mount to a startling conclusion.

McKenna carried the character off beautifully. I could almost believe she is Emmi. The character is, imo, sympathetic; I felt sorry for Emmi and liked her. The dialogue, acting, storyline are all wonderfully executed. As for the parish priest lusting after Emmi, that's incorrect.

Extra Features includes "Kiss of Death: Femme Fatale on Film," an "exclusive expert insight into film noir and the femme fatale." I enjoyed this too.

It's a tight little thriller which I'm glad to have in my DVD collection. I'm very picky about films, and this one is an ace.


Karswell said...

I'm not sure if I've ever seen this one, though I know I've seen at least two other films with the same title. Sounds good, I'll have to look it up on netflix!

Cindy M said...

My impression is it's only recently been "discovered" and released. I hope you won't be disappointed; I sure wasn't.

As mentioned, I'm picky about films and this one is a winner. I especially love McKenna's portrayal of Emmi; absolutely believable.

Joshua Perdue said...

Sounds like a wild film. Thanks for the tip!