Cry Wolf: Errol Flynn In Modern Tale, Co-Starring Stanwyck

In “Cry Wolf,” one of his atypical films, Errol Flynn plays a modern man, Mark Caldwell, a sinister patriarch sporting elegant suits, glasses, and a pipe.

In the opening scene, we see sort of a chase between a car and a horse. Sandra Marshall (Barbara Stanwyck), an elegant middle-aged woman, descends off the car and enters a large ominous house, the residence of the stuffy and sinister Caldwell. Claiming she is the widow (Mrs. Demarest) of Mark’s dead nephew, Sandra wants her share of his will. Problem is, Mark and his niece Julie (Geraldine Brooks) were unaware that the deceased had been married in the first place.

She later reveals that it was a marriage of convenience to help the young man get his inheritance, held by Mark, and that a planned divorce was to follow six months later. Naturally, Uncle Mark is suspicious of the intruding woman, and she is suspicious of him.

It turns out that Mark is a scientist who conducts strange experiments in a secretive wing of the house; mysterious screams are heard at night, which signal danger and illegit activities.

Most of the story is set within a big house, with maximum use of the large staircase, in a manner that recalls Hitchcock’s “Rebecca.” Like Joan Fontaine, though with greater strength and aggressive determination (this is after all the tough Stanwyck), Sandra begins to snoop around to find out what secrets are kept in the huge, mausoleum-like estate.

Not surprisingly, with the aid of her sister-in-law, Sandra discovers that her presumably dead husband James (Richard Basehart) is alive, wandering about the grounds. James tries to kill Mark, but demonstrates before accidentally dying, that insanity runs deep in the family, from which Mark has been trying to shield the widow. Before long,

In the manner of “Rebecca” and its dour staff, “Cry Wolf features its share of leering and bizarre servants.

Well-directed by Peter Godfrey, this second-tier Warner programmer is hampered by a senseless, utterly predictable plot, but the film is elevated by the acting of Flynn, who looks convincing in suits, and especially Stanwyck, who had played similar roles before, and is commanding when walking around the house or riding a horse.

Though the wardrobe is designed by Travilla, at Stanwyck’s request, Warner borrowed Paramount’s Edith Head to design her outfits, which change from scene to scene and reveal a shapely figure.

Of the production values, Franz Waxman’s impressive score underlines the somber mood of this noir melodrama, made at the height of the genre in the late 1940s, with all the visual devices that mark that style.