Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lighthouse (1947)

John Litel as Hank broods in his lighthouse.

From the opening scroll: "And always watchful, vigilant, is the man who tends the lighthouse, living his life of oppressive loneliness and seclusion. He lives in his own little world so that others may live---it's a small world---but things happen in it...."

Things, indeed. Like most films out of the PRC factory, Lighthouse runs a scant 62 minutes. This swelled hour is packed with plenty of maritime melodrama. Though the setup has the makings of a cynical nautical noir, the film, unfortunately, never dives into those murky depths.

Hank, a nice, responsible, and, not surprisingly, lonely man oversees the lighthouse. He is assisted by a lowlife, lying, ladies man, Sam. Connie has just been laid off from her job at the fish cannery. Washing away the saltiness which comes with that occupation, she longs for Sam, who, unbeknownst to her is married. On an investigative mission for her missing beau, she unravels Sam's charade. Her spiteful solution: marry Hank. Will Connie end up falling for dependable Hank or will Sam weasel his way back into Connie's heart?

June Lang as Connie decides whether she wants to be a femme fatale.

Despite an attempted murder and an insurance investigation, Lighthouse remains mostly a soaper, with only a few specks of grit, and a handful of hard-boiled lines ("Sister, that ain't just two-timing, that's hittin' you on the head eight to the bar.") Visually, it offers some points of interest. There are a couple of location shots of the grimy seaport town that are quite evocative. A blinking signal light in the housing quarters of the lighthouse serves as a symbol for Hank---the consistent watchdog. Hank's simple life is epitomized by his recurring nightmare of the signal light going out.

This shot of the signal light gone out echoes a shot of a hangman's noose
in Wisbar's earlier Strangler of the Swamp.

Lighthouse is the last of a quartet of movies Frank Wisbar directed for PRC, following the hard-to-find Secrets of a Sorority Girl and two minor horror classics, Strangler of the Swamp and Devil Bat's Daughter. These last two are endlessly fascinating, the former for its rustic other worldliness the latter for its occupation as the most hysterically strange sequel of all-time. They will certainly be discussed further in future posts.

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