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Film / Cry Wolf (1947)

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Cry Wolf is a 1947 mystery/thriller film directed by Peter Godfrey, adapted from the novel of the same name by Marjorie Carlton.

Sandra Marshall (Barbara Stanwyck) is brought to the mansion of the wealthy Caldwell family one evening. She's brought in to see family patriarch Mark Caldwell (Errol Flynn) who tells her that this is not a good time for guests as the family is in mourning, one day before the burial of Mark's nephew, Jim Demarest. Sandra says she knows this...because she is Jim's wife.

Mark is caught by surprise by this news; Sandra responds by saying she hadn't been in touch with her husband recently and hadn't heard about her husband's death until she read it in the newspaper. Sandra freely admits that hers was a marriage of convenience: the terms of Jim's mother's will left his $2 million inheritance in trust until Jim got married. They would have gotten divorced in a month after Jim got his money, but now Jim is dead.


Sandra is suspicious about the sudden and vaguely explained death of a young man barely a month before Mark would have had to give him two million dollars. She grows more suspicious when Jim's little sister Julie, who seems to be a semi-prisoner in the mansion, tells Sandra that Mark once before intervened to stop Jim from getting married, and is currently trying to stop Julie from getting married to her boyfriend. Then things start getting really weird when Sandra hears screaming from Mark the chemist's laboratory, in the other wing of the mansion...



  • Alone with the Psycho: The climax finds Sandra alone with crazed, murderous Jim in the spooky mansion after Jim whacks Mark on the head with a wrench.
  • Chiaroscuro: There are a lot of spooky shadowy shots in the old dark house that is the Caldwell mansion. Mark is introduced with a dramatic shot of him sitting at his desk signing papers by firelight.
  • Disney Villain Death: After Laidell the groundskeeper bursts in and saves Sandra, he and Jim fight, resulting in Jim falling from an upper floor of the mansion to his death.
  • Dumbwaiter Ride: Susan begins to think that Mark, who is obviously up to something nefarious, may be holding Jim prisoner in his attic laboratory. When Susan finds out that Mark gets his meals sent to the lab by dumbwaiter, she hauls herself up. Her husband isn't there, but she overhears a suspicious conversation before she has to go back down via dumbwaiter, barely avoiding being caught.note 
  • It Runs in the Family: Turns out that both Jim and Julie inherited a tendency to violent insanity from their father.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: The Reveal. Jim isn't dead, but he is violently insane, and he killed a guy barely a month ago. Mark covered it up, brought Jim home, and locked him away in the laboratory and later in a hunting lodge on the far side of the Caldwell estate. That's why he keeps Julie under close supervision as well, because he fears she may display the same insanity that Jim inherited from his and Julie's violently insane father.
  • Make It Look Like an Accident:
    • How Mark kept Jim out of prison, although apparently there was a lot of bribery involved as well. note 
    • Julie actually killed herself. But Mark staged it to look like an accident in order to save Mark's brother, a U.S. Senator, from political scandal.
  • Marriage of Convenience: Sandra married Jim solely so he could get his money, after which he'd pay off her tuition fees.
  • Match Cut: A shot of the Old Retainer maid closing a window and walking away is smoothly matched to a shot of the older and younger maids together as they walk out of the room.
  • Off-into-the-Distance Ending: Ends with Mark and Sandra walking away together, holding hands, after the truth is revealed and Jim dies.
  • On One Condition: Jim didn't get his inheritance until six months after he got married, which was why he got married to Sandra in the backstory.
  • The Reveal: Jim isn't dead, but he is an insane murderer, and Mark is a basically good guy who was trying to protect his niece and nephew while stopping them from hurting anyone.
  • Scary Shiny Glasses: Mark is established as creepy and possibly evil in his first scene, where he's wearing glasses and the light of the fire makes them shine like mirrors.
  • Spit Take: Mark hands Sandra a cocktail. Then he points out a picture of his grandfather on the wall and cheerfully relates how his grandfather killed his wife by giving her a poisoned cocktail. Sandra spits out her drink.