"One must have courage to really live in the world."
-- Miss Gilchrist
Producer: Val Lewton
Director: Mark Robson
Starring: Kim Hunter, Jean Brooks, and Tom Conway
Young Mary Gibson (Kim Hunter, in her first film) is informed by the headmistress of the Catholic girls' school she attends that her sister, Jacquelyn (Jean Brooks), who owns a thriving perfume business in New York City , has not paid her tuition bills for several months and has apparently vanished. The headmistress, Miss Lowood (Ottola Nesmith) offers to keep her own as a junior teacher, but her teacher Miss Gilchrist (Eve March) warns her to leave and never return. The never explained relationship between these two characters is the first of a number of vague intimations of lesbianism to be found in this film.
Mary goes to New York City in search of her missing sister, tracing her to Greenwich Village, which hasn't looked so spooky since Lewton's The Cat People. There she meets her sister's psychiatrist (Tom Conway, reprising his role as Dr. Lewis Judd from The Cat People) and her husband, Gregory Ward (Hugh Beaumont), along with an assortment of other characters with secrets to hide. She is also befriended by Mr. and Mrs. Romari, a charming older couple who run a local restaurant, poet Jason Hoag (Erford Gage), and ill-fated private eye Irving August (Lou Lubin).
Mary's search for her sister plunges her into a dark and dangerous world where little is what it seems and evil lurks behind the most banal of guises. It has a startling ending that is film noir at its bleakest. This eerie masterpiece prefigures key elements of both Psycho and Rosemary's Baby but it is u nique in itself.
"I run from death, and death meets me as fast,
And all my pleasures are like yesterday."
--- John Donne, Holy Sonnet #7
quoted in the film's prolog