Dark Waters (1944)

Dark Waters (1944)
 
 

On the Waters Edge

Merle Oberon in Dark Waters (1944)

As one of just 4 survivors of the sinking of the Valdera, Leslie Calvin (Merle Oberon) is left in a fragile state having witnessed many deaths including her parents which left her as the sole heir to their fortune. After spending time in a New Orleans hospital she gets in contact with an Uncle and Aunt who she has never met and they invite her to come and stay with them on their plantation in the Bayou. But when Leslie arrives at the station she is still in a fragile state and when no one comes to meet her she collapses and tended to by Dr. George Grover (Franchot Tone - Every Girl Should Be Married) who then takes her to the plantation. But something doesn't appear quite right as plantation manager Mr. Sydney (Thomas Mitchell - The Long Voyage Home) and his right hand man Cleeve (Elisha Cook Jr.) make her feel uncomfortable.

I had great hopes for "Dark Waters" because it is a relatively early insanity movie, a sub genre which I enjoy but often find myself disappointed by because of the lack of originality. I was hoping coming early on there would be more creativity to what we watched as the fragile Leslie is slyly pushed to the verge of break down by an unscrupulous group. But unfortunately it just ends up routine stuff with a romantic sub plot which is just cliche as Leslie and George become friendly.

The thing is that "Dark Waters" in a seemingly need to entertain keeps everything bouncing along often accompanied by a bright musical score. The trouble is that rather than help create atmosphere the varying orchestral pieces end up shattering any atmosphere it creates. And because the whole movie skips along it never has time to really create the ominous atmosphere it desires. Director André De Toth certainly tries to create atmosphere with use of heavy shadowing but much of it actually feels unnatural.

In the end "Dark Waters" starts to feel like less of a movie telling a story and more of a showcase for the beautiful Merle Oberon. And to be honest Oberon is eye catching but her character is all reaction rather than depth and that ends up forcing other actors such as Thomas Mitchell and Elisha Cook Jr. to also over react their characters.

What this all boils down to is that whilst "Dark Waters" is an entertaining insanity movie it is only an ordinary one with it ending up feeling like a vehicle for actress Merle Oberon.

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