Feature Comedy | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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Greedy relatives assemble in an old house to hear an eccentric's will, and a young girl's sanity is threatened. Archetypal spooky house comedy horror. Here given an immensely stylish production which influenced Hollywood through the thirties and was spoofed in 'The Old Dark House'.
Indistinct image of castle with superimposed figure of old man sitting in chair. Three superimposed black cats surround bottles. Man collapses in chair. Last will and testament in close-up. Good shot of scary house. Superimposed shot of hand bringing letter into close-up. "This envelope is never to be opened if the terms of my will are carried out, Cyrus West". Letter put back by very craggy and hairy hand. Camera moves through interior of house, corridor with wind blowing curtains about. Torch beam illuminates stairs and chair in room. As camera pans we see shadow of candlestick on wall, and candlestick with bent candles on table. Beam illuminates panelled wood. Gloved hand pushes panel and goes lower to safe. Turns dial on safe. Opens handle, opens safe and puts paper (will?) in safe. Closes safe, turns dial. Long shot of woman carrying candlestick along passageway. Enters room to right. Exterior of scary castle. Woman at panelling. Lifts secret flap pushes button and trap door reveals safe. She bends down and puts her hands on dial and handle eagerly. Porch on stormy right, heavy wind. Back of man in coat and carrying stick going to door. Gloved hand clears cobwebs off large door knocker and knocks door. Woman servant at safe disturbed and pushes button to hide safe. Trapdoor slams shut. She gets up off her knees. She opens large front door to man. Man enters. Takes his hat off puts it and cane on table in hall way. Takes cape off. He does not want maids help to take cape off. She locks the door. (He is lawyer and will read the will to the heirs). He reaches in waistcoat pocket for pocket / fob watch. Close up of watch in his hand, 11:35. He slips his briefcase under his arm and walks off. She follows. They enter large room. He advances to table and puts briefcase on table. Close up of his hands opening briefcase. Her face eerily lit and she looks sinister. She watches lawyer go to safe, and looks worried. Close up his hands on dial and he reads numbers from sheet of paper. He opens safe. Melodramatic surprise. Inside of safe with moth crawling about. He reaches into safe and pulls moth out. Close up his and her faces. He accuses her, she turns her back afraid / ashamed. He takes will with wax seals to table and examines it. Examines two identical sealed wills. Lawyer demands who has been in the house, she says only herself and 'his' ghost. "No ghost could have opened these envelopes". Housekeeper says only lawyer knew safe's combination. Superimposed gloved hand on knocker. She takes coat of man entering. Lawyer shakes visitor's hand (we only see his hand from around door). Then close up of younger man's face. Men hold hands, lawyer pleased to meet younger man, (cousin Harry). He peers at him and opens his arms happily. Another younger man (cousin Charles), enters and introduces himself to lawyer. First younger man back away and turns his back. Newish visitor proffers his hand in greeting, but Harry keeps his hands in his pockets. Lawyer nudges Harry and says forget your family quarrels. Lawyer brings their hands together and forces them to shake hands. Taxi with two women get out. Younger woman asks driver why he will not drive in, "Not for a million bucks", he says in close up. Tells them, "Ghosts". Promptly drives off leaving women each clutching a bag. Very windy and their clothes blow about. Younger taller one pats shoulder of other. At door they hammer on door (not using door knocker). They run in. Housekeeper (Mammy Pleasant) takes younger girl's (niece Cecily) bag, but Aunt Susan drops hers. Furry sub-titles scroll by "Gosh what a spooky house". Shadow of older woman on wall. Shadow of housekeeper following them. Women are greeted by men at door of library. Car drives to camera, black cat runs across its path. Black cat stopped in front of car. Man gets out of car and shouts at cat. Tries to roll car back, but loud bang from tyre, holds hands in air. People in house hear noise and turn around. Close up of car tyre deflating. Puncture. Housekeeper struggles to shut front door. Driver runs off and shuts door of library behind him. Collapses against door relieved. Shock at seeing other people. Lawyer advances on him. Lawyer in close up "You're Paul Jones", man nods. Housekeeper enters door and knocks Paul who scared, runs to couch. She walks towards him. He stands up and takes off his coat and hands it to her. He points at the hat she is carrying and feels his head. He appears not to understand how she has got his hat. She walks off. Paul sits down and tells story about bang. Says it was a gunshot. Indicates about an inch between his fingers, that's how close the bullet was to his nose! All four members of family shake his hand one by one, he stands and then sits each time and tries to explain bullet and his close shave. He pantomimes driving. Harry looks at wrist watch and says it is time to read the will. Lawyer checks his pocket watch and shakes his head. Have to wait for Annabelle West. Paul stands up with mouth open. Close up woman's gloved hand gingerly picking up door knocker between finger and thumb. Worried about cleanliness. Knocks. Girl shakes hands of men. Paul still telling story about gun shot but no one listens. Delighted to meet Annabelle, and advances to greet her, but she does not notice him and turns her back. He calls her. She turns and smiles. They hold hands. Aunt and niece talk on couch. Niece laughs. Annabelle greets Cecily and Aunt. Alarm from everyone as clock strikes 12. Close up internal workings of clock, hammer lifted. Hammers on springs superimposed on people as they get seated round table. Close up of lawyer's hands as he breaks seals and opens will. Family show interest and lean forward. Lawyer puts on pince-nez glasses. Man slides table oil lamp nearer lawyer. Table lamp obscures man's face. Close ups of each of family. Aunt looks stern, niece pats her blond curls. Paul jots down notes. Close up of back of his envelope "Paul Jones, Millionaire". Annabelle looks at his note and smiles. Will is damning to relatives. Close in on lawyer's mouth. Aunt fidgets with her hands. Lawyer's mouth in close up. Melodramatically wait for announcement of beneficiary, Annabelle West, reactions, her surprise, others' disappointment. Paul crosses out word "millionaire". Aunts face, camera trick, it stretches. Hands shake hand of Annabella. Paul upset he lost. Housemaid brings letter to Annabelle. Housemaid prevents other hand taking it. Some jealous faces, especially niece and aunt. Lawyer shakes Annabelle's hand. Annabelle smiles. Aunt Susan hits table. Portrait swings off wall and falls. People cower. Cecily comforts Aunt Susan. Housekeeper picks up picture and looks darkly at family. Susan comforted in armchair. Harry puts his hands on shoulders of Annabelle. Annabelle begs Paul not to go and leave her alone with these people. Housemaid says omen of painting falling off wall means something terrible will happen. Man's hand helps Susan mop her face with handkerchief. Annabelle opens door and calls Mammy Pleasant. Family troop out through door led by man with oil lamp. Lawyer stays in room with Annabelle and shuts rest of family out. Lawyer stands behind high backed gothic wooden chair and talks. Family sit round table smoking. Paul frightened by entrance of housekeeper. Cecily in her fur takes coffee pot and cup and prepares to pour coffee. Paul is afraid, skull superimposed on screen. Paul makes to hurry off, shakes hands of family. Man enters room, announces he is looking for escaped lunatic. People afraid, aunt sits down comforted by Paul who strokes her hat over her face. Cecily cowers away from man's story of way lunatic tears at his victims like a cat, very graphic. Close in to scared faces of Susan, Cecily and Paul. Paul winds pocket watch and puts it to ear. Fails to put it in waistcoat pocket, so shoves it down front of waistcoat. Lawyer shows Annabelle envelope. As he walks and talks section of bookcase opens and closes. Girl nods. Lawyer indicates points with his finger. Gnarled hand with long nails reaches out. Lawyer says "The name is .." and is grabbed and dragged behind bookcase. Annabelle sees shadow, and turns but lawyer has gone and bookcase looks normal. Calls out and family stand up from table.
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