In 1937, what I assume to be a suspenseful play by Emlyn Williams became a suspenseful motion picture. I mean Night Must Fall, superbly directed for the screen by Richard Thorpe and featuring crisp and clever acting from Robert Montgomery, Dame May Whitty and Rosalind Russell.
In it, an extroverted page boy (Montgomery) wins the heart of, and is hired to work for, a nasty old woman and pseudo-invalid (Dame Whitty) who is daily disappointed by the ministrations of her live-in niece (Russell). The page boy is sexually attracted to the niece and she to him, except that a news report of a missing girl in this English vicinity induces the niece to suspect that the page boy is in reality a Jack the Ripper. Of course this leaves her cold but also fascinates her. In fact both characters are eccentrics, one of them creepy and the other, the niece, repressed. The latter makes the claim, in effect, that the page boy has taken away her reason.
Night Must Fall is about a world of ordinary petty spite (the old woman’s) and ordinary vulnerabilities when it confronts a devilish phenomenon. It has to do with when there arises a perversion greater than your own—greater, that is, than the old woman’s, but also greater than the niece’s temporary perversion when she loses her “reason.” Moreover, it is about the mystery of human motives. It is a thriller about terror, made by Thorpe with an eye for cinematics.