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Dark Places (1974)


Dark Places (1974) feels right at home with an Amicus Production, which it is not. It was the only film produced by a man named James Hannah Jr. from Chicago. Supposedly, the cast didn’t know why he was making it, although they speculated it was probably a tax write-off. With director Don Sharp (The Kiss of the Vampire, 1963) and stars like Christopher Lee, Joan Collins, and Herbert Lom, it’s not a bad achievement for a neophyte.

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The catch is that the stars mentioned act in supporting roles. The heavy lifting goes to Robert Hardy, who plays Cornelius Fudge in the Harry Potter movies. Here, he plays Edward Foster, the beneficiary of Andrew Marr, a rich man who was committed to St. Columba’s Mental Institution after his wife and children disappeared. Supposedly he hid a fortune (210 thousand pounds) in cash inside one of the walls of his dilapidated country mansion.

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It's no surprise that Foster has ulterior motives and is soon tap-tap-tapping on walls to discover if there are any hollow spots. It may be more of a surprise (so, SPOILER!) that nearly all the other characters are also after the money, which means they need to convince Foster the house is haunted and drive him away. When coats start moving themselves off the back of the couch, though, and Sarah Mandeville says she (Joan Collins) didn’t do it, we learn the house may really be haunted.

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Lee plays Dr. Ian Mandeville, whose vocation provides opportunities for him to come in and out of the story. However, he’s also Sarah’s brother and when she tries to turn her charms on him as only Joan Collins can do, the hint of incest becomes temporarily uncomfortable. The look on Lee’s face is priceless, and we don’t blame him for calling her a “dirty, filthy little slut.”

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None of this seems particularly original, but then Foster begins reliving events in Marr’s life that ultimately reveal what happened to his family. Hardy plays both characters. Foster of the present may be possessed by Marr of the past. This isn't original, either, but the way the two unoriginal parts are squished into one delivers the illusion that we’re watching something unique. Finally, with not one, but two twists, you end the experience smiling.



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