Before finding fame as Sherlock Holmes, Basil Rathbone appeared as a seething madman in Love From a Stranger, a barnstorming performance that oozes insanity.
The Missing Link Proudly Presents

Love From a Stranger (1937)

Down in front! you'll shout...rather than miss a single exciting moment of
Love From a Stranger!

Love From a Stranger (1937)(1937/Trafalgar Films/UA.) 84mins. BW. UK.
Credits: Dir: Rowland V. Lee; Prod: Max Schach; Sc: Frances Marion; Ph: Philip Tanura; Ed: Howard O'Neil; Art: Frederick Pusey; Mus: Benjamin Britten. Mus.Dir: Boyd Neel. From a play by Frank Vosper and the short story "Philomel Cottage" by Agatha Christie.
Cast: Basil Rathbone, Ann Harding, Binnie Hale, Bruce Seton, Jean Cadell, Bryan Powley, Joan Hickson, Donald Calthrop, Eugene Leahy.

For anyone who simply associates Basil Rathbone with his portrayal as Sherlock Holmes, LOVE FROM A STRANGER will come as a very pleasant surprise. Rathbone (1892-1967) was not adverse to leaving the deerstalker behind for the opportunity to portray other characters. During his long career he notched up appearances in comedies, Biblical epics, musicals and of course, the horror genre. It does say something about the strength of his talent when with consumate ease he could alternate between the villains in CAPTAIN BLOOD (1935), GARDEN OF ALLAH (1936) and as the scheming Gisbourne in THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD (1938), with his role as the defender of law and order, pitting his wits against his evil nemesis Dr. Moriarty in the series of Sherlock Holmes features.

Directed by Rowland V. Lee, LOVE FROM A STRANGER gave Basil Rathbone a free reign to make the most of his part and ham it up where necessary. The film was remade in 1947 as an average melodrama without the elements of madness.

Timid Carol Howard, (Ann Harding), is fortunate enough to win 96,000 francs from the French lottery so she plans to rent her flat and take the opportunity to travel the world. A dashing stranger calls to enquire about the flat and soon after her fiancee Ronnie, (Bruce Seton), arrives after five years in the Sudan. After hearing about her good fortune, Ronnie and Carol have an argument that leads to Ronnie leaving again.
On board a ship to Paris, Carol again encounters the stranger who enquired about her flat and he introduces himself as Gerald Lovell, (Basil Rathbone), who is anxious to escort Carol and show her the sights of Paris himself. This charming man wines and dines Carol until a romance develops and when Ronnie catches up with Carol she informs him that she and Gerald were married only a few days ago. After visiting Monte Carlo, Cannes, Cairo and St. Moritz, the newly weds promptly return to London after Gerald suffers a mild heart attack. Needing complete rest, Carol spends 5000 on a small cottage in Kent for Gerald to convalesce.Rathbone in the cellar in Love From a Stranger (1937)
The film moves up a gear as Gerald slowly reveals a darker side to his nature. When alone in the cellar, where incidently Carol is forbidden to go, Gerald muses over his collection of women's photographs and the chiffon scarves they once wore to the accompianment of Grieg's "Hall of the Mountain King". Suddenly Carol appears as the music is reaching a deafening crescendo only to be screamed at as if from a seething madman.
To try and retrieve the situation, Gerald who is obviously insane agrees to undergo an examination by the doctor who discovers Gerald has a heart condition, but during his visit, the doctor notices a book about famous unsolved crimes and mentions that Gerald's copy does not contain a picture of Fletcher, a notorious criminal who murdered three women. The picture apparently has been torn out.
Carol becomes increasingly suspicious of Gerald's behaviour and eventually learns his true identity, that of Edward Fletcher. That evening, Gerald sends the servants away so that Carol and he can spend some time alone together, but as Carol reads aloud the Fletcher article from his book of unsolved crimes, Gerald paces the room, circling her like a shark, his madness increasing with every step. To stall for time, Carol announces that she too is a murderer, but when Gerald is about to kill her, Carol pretends that she has poisoned the coffee he has drunk and brings about a fatal heart attack.

Running for 84 minutes, this smoothly acted suspense drama is unfortunately one of Rathbone's frequently overlooked performances, despite that fact that he is superbly effective as the insane murderer. The quick-fire editing, atmospheric photography and Britten's good music score, particularly during the latter stages, is an additional bonus, but it is Rathbone's performance alone that makes this film most enjoyable.

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