BluRay/DVD Reviews

PASSING CLOUDS

By • Apr 18th, 2005 •

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Sinister Cinema DVD
Aka SPELLBOUND, THE SPELL OF AMY NUGENT, GHOST STORY.
1940. 82 Minutes. B/W Not enhanced for 16×9 monitor screens.

I just love one of those little-seen horror films: the type that few people have ever heard of, and discovering upon seeing the movie for the first time that it catches your interest to the point of renewed viewings. PASSING CLOUDS is one of those little pleasures that harkens back to the era of watching an old movie, before cable, on a rainy afternoon. Originally released as SPELLBOUND in Great Britain and THE SPELL OF ANY NUGENT in the U.S., the print used for this Sinister Cinema release came from the collection of the late film historian William K. Everson (a beloved FIR contributor), and the source print is in very good condition for a title this old and obscure.

The plot, dealing with lost love, spiritualism, demonic possession and love conquering all, is a little dated and “stay within your social class” by today’s standards, but it has some really creepy moments. Young aristocrat Laurie Baxter (Derek Farr) is in love with shop-girl Amy Nugent (Diana King) despite his mother’s objections. The mother would rather Laurie get involved with his childhood friend Diana (Vera Lindsay), who belongs to his same social class. Laurie proposes marriage to Amy, who is suffering from a life-long illness. Not too long afterward, Amy dies. The depressed Laurie stumbles upon a book of spiritualism, which leads him to Mr. Vincent (Frederick Leister), a totally ruthless psychic who discovers that the distraught young man is a natural medium. Vincent is more than willing to exploit Laurie and convinces the young man to take part in a seance to call forth the spirit of Amy Nugent. The experiment is a disaster. Vincent is struck down and Laurie becomes the host for a demonic force that had taken the image of the dead girl. It is up to Diana to put her faith to the test to free Laurie. The director, John Harlow, did an effective job on this production, putting together elements to make it work fairly well despite some flaws.

The screenplay, by writer/actor Miles Malleson (acting credits include THIEF OF BAGDAD (’40), HORROR OF DRACULA and BRIDES OF DRACULA), though having more than its share of cliches, nonetheless holds the interest of the viewer. Walter Harvey’s photography, with its deep shadows and tight closeups (especially during the scenes where Laurie screams in the dark) are well done in the best Val Lewton style.

The source print is in very good shape, showing a little wear which isn’t too much of a distraction. The sound is clear and I heard no real major distortion when I played it through my system. The DVD comes with box art using the PRC release title THE SPELL OF AMY NUGENT. So pull up a good chair and judge for yourself – “Who You Gonna Call?”


Cast:
Derek Farr, Vera Lindsay, Frederick Leister, Hay Petrie, W.G. Fay, Felix Aylmer, Marian Spencer and Diana King.

Production:
Produced by R. Murray-Leslie.
Directed by John Harlow.
Screenplay: Miles Malleson.
Based upon the novel “THE NECROMANCERS” written by Robert Hugh Benson.
Photography: Walter Harvey.
Camera: Guy Green.
Recording: John Dennis.
Editing: Frederick Wilson.
Music: George Walter.

A Pyramid Amalgamated Picture

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