The sudden death of Louise's husband does nothing to thwart her desires to be in his rich mother's will. Louise makes her way to Castle Halloran and begins her schemes, but she's quickly mired in the family's mysterious history, including dear, departed sister Kathleen who may yet be stalking the castle's spooky halls.
Fascinating debut for Francis Ford Coppola, working on a slim budget under the auspices of producer Roger Corman, who was apparently not pleased with the effort. And yet this thing's got a lurid charm, thanks to some effective Irish location settings, and Coppola and his game cast (including local actors from the Abbey Theatre, hired on the cheap) bringing a weird life to this Gothic, atmospheric, and bloody story. It's very much of its time, and every bit the PSYCHO ripoff that Corman explicitly asked for. But to these eyes it's a curious link between the Gothic whodunnits from earlier in the century and the slasher films that would define horror less than two decades later (Bava's TWITCH OF THE DEATH NERVE would hone the model, dumping the Gothic atmosphere and amping the gore, eight years later). The murder sequences are startlingly gory, and remind us how little Hitchcock showed in his work. The sudden departure of a major character identifier halfway through the film is more disorienting here, as the other members of the cast seem adrift in their horror and confusion. And who wouldn't be? Even the harpsichord riffs played throughout seem to anticipate John Carpenter's spare and insistent theme for his own Halloween. A cheap but crucial picture here, deserving somewhat better stature than it' enjoyed. Happily, it can be seen all over the place on line.