There is the somnabular momentum of corpses wandering in and out of drawing rooms talking of Michelangelo. The plot and dialogue may be creaky in this one, yet somehow it fits in a world where basements are filled with steamer trunks and penny farthing bicycles, and inquests conducted by one-eyed coroners [a stand-in for Lang?]
A film that was thought lost just a few years ago. A beautiful woman’s corpse drifting back and forth over the river, a brother loving his brother’s wife, a writer discovering that he writes better books if he tells about his own experience. The year is 1950 and the director, Fritz Lang. Masterpiece.
Atmospheric mid-period 'B' pic from director Lang that though with an obvious limited budget is very successful in capturing a somewhat lurid thriller. Casting is nothing special but the visual panache and a knowing script go a long way. Well worth discovering.
The film comes to the point straightforwardly. The b/w photography is very atmospheric, and George Antheil did a great job in writing the score. There are some incredible audiovisual moments, e.g. the montage with Emily in the bathroom and Stephen in the garden, underlined with recitative-like musical textures (containing tender woodwind phrases over string tremolos).
On first viewing, this did not leave much of an impression. But I recently remember how uncanny it felt, a series of mishaps happening within a limited space, always a gaze seemingly witnessing. Like Night of the Hunter, I believe this film can only be read as nightmare.
3 1/2 out of 5 stars. The story and performances weren't anything impressive but Lang's eerie and atmospheric noir treatment really made House By the River into something more than it should've been. An unknown gem deserving of more attention than it gets.