Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn Film Details
Overview: In 1820’s rural England, a young girl is tricked by tales of marriage by a villainous Squire, and when she becomes pregnant, and disappears, a gipsy lad is blamed.
Tagline: Sensational! Eerie! Sinister! Weird! The most unusual picture of the year!
Review: THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN, sometimes subtitled MARIA MARTEN, is based on the true story of a murder that took place in Suffolk in 1828. It was subsequently adapted for the stage by the Victorians, and in the 20th century Tod Slaughter became popular for his performance as Squire Corder, the villain of the play. With the success of Dracula, FRANKENSTEIN, et all in the early 1930s, some cheapie British producers obviously felt the time was right for some home-grown horror and melodrama, and the play was finally adapted for the big screen. This low budget production is neatly preceded by an announcer introducing all of the actors in the movie, which proves to be a charming reminder of the olden times. The film itself is a sometimes turgid potboiler that manages to pack quite a lot of detail and incident into a scant one hour running time. To cut the story short, a young village woman shuns her gypsy lover in favour of an older seducer. When her seducer learns she has become pregnant, he murders her, with the rest of the film chronicling the subsequent investigation (by the Bow Street Runners, no less). THE MURDER IN THE RED BARN is cheaply made and impoverished, and the sets and camera-work can’t hold a candle to American or German competitors. However, it is entertaining in its own right, with an engaging storyline – forgotten today – and a barnstorming performance from Tod Slaughter, one that was to put him on the movie map and which was to lead to his typecasting as a villain in another dozen or so movies over the next twenty years. Slaughter is an acquired taste, to be sure; he’s often hammy, but gives the performance here his all, so he’s impossible to dislike; imagine an early Vincent Price or Michael Gough and you’ll be halfway there, although Slaughter is all on his own. He’s like a throwback, a leftover from yesteryear, an age when silent film and stage actors had to overdo their expressions and overemphasise their lines so audiences could understand what was going on. The rest of the cast are also surprisingly good, and I can’t think of one weak performance. Sophie Stewart is a damsel in distress whom you can root for, while Eric Portman’s gypsy hero is always sympathetic. Inspector Lestrade actor Dennis Hoey has fun in a mostly comic supporting role as a gambler who drains Slaughter’s money. The first half of the film is quite slowly paced, setting up the plot until the actual murder, but the last twenty minutes is tremendous fun, with people shooting pistols all over the place, Slaughter undergoing a mental breakdown and becoming haunted and mad in equal measure, and a neat conclusion that sees him climbing the gallows. Slaughter’s next role was to be his most famous; that of SWEENEY TODD, DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET.
Duration: 70 min
Genre: Crime, Drama
Also known as: Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn,Murder in the Red Barn,Murder in the Old Red Barn,The Murder in the Red Barn,Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn