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Murder in the Red Barn

Overview

Dear old Tod Slaughter serves up another chop-licking melodrama with Murder in the Red Barn. Based on a barnstorming, fact-based American play, the film features the redoubtable Mr. Slaughter as Squire William Corder, potential defiler of the virtue of virginal Maria Marten (Sophia Stewart). When she refuses to let him have his way with her, Corder does away with the poor girl and hides her body in the red barn of the title. But the villain is -- curses! -- foiled when the girl's stalwart sweetheart uncovers the ...
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Overview

Dear old Tod Slaughter serves up another chop-licking melodrama with Murder in the Red Barn. Based on a barnstorming, fact-based American play, the film features the redoubtable Mr. Slaughter as Squire William Corder, potential defiler of the virtue of virginal Maria Marten (Sophia Stewart). When she refuses to let him have his way with her, Corder does away with the poor girl and hides her body in the red barn of the title. But the villain is -- curses! -- foiled when the girl's stalwart sweetheart uncovers the crime. Just in case anyone were to take this too seriously, the film opens with a master of ceremonies introducing all the characters, who take huge, ceremonial bows before plunging into the story.
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Special Features

[None specified]
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Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - David Lewis
Maria Marten, or The Murder in the Red Barn was the most popular melodrama of the Victorian stage in England. It was based on a true crime story from 1827 that had excited the public imagination in a way that no murder case would until the advent of Jack the Ripper. The historic Maria Marten was a lower class opportunist who'd had trysts with several men before setting her sites on William Corder, the scoundrel scion of a reasonably well-to-do farming family a couple of years her junior. She and Corder had a child out of wedlock - her third - which mysteriously disappeared, as did Maria Marten herself shortly after. After Marten's stepmother - just one year older than Marten - reported having dreams about Marten having been murdered and buried in the Red Barn, a local landmark, Marten's body was discovered there. After a very humiliating and public trial, Corder was hanged. The theatrical property of Maria Marten was not a single play, but an entire repertoire of anonymous plays about the case, the earliest staged while Corder yet lived. These were seen everywhere from fairground peepshows to low class penny gaffs to legitimate theater; it is said that all of these versions taken together makes Maria Marten the most frequently performed entertainment in nineteenth-century England. Over time, some characterizations were changed; Corder became an older man of means and Maria Marten a basically virtuous girl whose interest in Corder was an inexplicable caprice that led to her downfall. Maria was provided with an alternate suitor of a somewhat lower class than herself, her stepmother rebranded as a proper mother and her father upgraded from molecatcher to a village squire or clergyman. The messy business of the baby and of the stepmother's dreams - ultimately adjudged too supernatural an element - dropped out of the story. This film version, produced by George King as an independent and released in the UK by MGM's English subsidiary, was the first one in sound and the fifth film version of Maria Marten overall. Veteran English actor Tod Slaughter made his entrance into the Edwardian theater and, from the early 1920s, made a career playing Victorian-style villains in South London melodramas; by the time he made his film debut with Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn, Slaughter was fifty years of age, a legend of the stage and had already appeared in this play countless times, though not always in the prime part of Corder. Slaughter is the main reason to watch the film now; although he is often described as "over the top," his performance in Maria Marten is surprisingly nuanced. He clearly understood something about psychosis and moves seamlessly from callous indifference to remorse, from being just a normal fellow to irradiating pure evil and mixing it all up in a very skillful and effective way, not to mention very much enjoying playing the bad guy. The other players are professional and adequate, but none make quite the impression that Slaughter does, though Eric Portman delivers a strong and assertive performance as the gypsy Carlos; he would much later serve as one of the "Number Twos" in the original TV series of The Prisoner. Despite utilizing the framing device of the staged introductions and never moving too far from the stage milieu in which the show was so comfortably popular, the film never seems static and there are occasional artistic visual touches, though these are very brief; one wonders what this could have been like had Carl Theodor Dreyer directed it. English censors could be fairly heavy handed when came to American horror films, but American censors took the hatchet to Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn, reducing it by the equivalent of a full reel; some state-based censor boards cut it back even further. It is in such a drastically shortened version that the film is circulated on DVD and video, yet even in its truncated state, Maria Marten, or the Murder in the Red Barn is still highly watchable entertainment which transcends the boundaries of Victorian stage melodrama while still documenting one of the key works of the genre and benefits greatly from the one great actor at its core.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 5/25/2004
  • UPC: 089218441690
  • Original Release: 1935
  • Rating:

  • Source: Alpha Video
  • Region Code: 0
  • Presentation: B&W
  • Time: 60:00
  • Format: DVD
  • Sales rank: 93,444

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Tod Slaughter Squire William Corder
Sophie Stewart Maria Marten
D.J. Williams Farmer Marten
Clare Greet Mrs. Marten
Eric Portman Carlos
Gerrard Tyrell Tim
Antonia Brough Maud Sennett
Dennis Hoey Gambler
Stella Rho Gypsy Crone
Herbert Leonard Compere
Noel Dainton Steel, Bow Street Runner
Hilary Eaves
Quinton McPherson Mr. Sennett
Technical Credits
Milton Rosmer Director
Randall H. Faye Screenwriter
Charles Saunders Editor
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Scene Index

Side #1 --
1. Chapter 1 [9:46]
2. Chapter 2 [9:10]
3. Chapter 3 [9:50]
4. Chapter 4 [10:55]
5. Chapter 5 [8:05]
6. Chapter 6 [10:51]
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Menu

Side #1 --
   Play
   Chapter Index
   Catalog
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 20, 2012

    One of the most underrated films of all time!

    One of the most underrated films of all time!

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews