Director: Arthur Lubin
Script: Dorothy Reid & Lenore Coffee
Cast: Stewart Granger, Jean Simmons, Bill Travers, Finlay Currie, Ronald Squire, Belinda Lee, William Hartnell
Running time: 90 minutes
Based on the short story ‘The Interruption’ by W.W. Jacobs (most famous for his ghost story ‘The Monkey’s Paw’), Footsteps in the Fog is a gaslight melodrama with gothic trappings. Shot for a modest budget of £120,000 and starring one of old Hollywood’s golden couples, the film was ahead of its time in its depiction of a working class woman using her brains to move on up the class structure of the day. And this is probably why actress Jean Simmons was keener on doing the film than her then husband, Stewart Granger.
Following the funeral of his recently deceased wife, Stephen Lowry (Granger) finds some of his wife’s jewellery is missing. When he asks his maid, Lily Watkins (Simmons), where it is she tells him that his now dead wife had bequeathed it to her. He doesn’t believe her, but she retorts that her story is just as likely as his explanation for the cause of death of his wife! Touché!
As the story unfolds it’s revealed that Lily had found the poison he gave to his wife to finish her off and she uses this knowledge to blackmail him into giving her the role of house steward, which basically means she is the boss of the other two servants, who tended to give her a hard time. The cook and the handyman, seeing her as a disruptive influence leave Lowry’s estate, after refusing to work with Lily, which leaves just the two of them in his town house together.
What follows is a clever, almost Hitchcockian thriller which sees both Lily and Stephen trying to stay one step ahead of each other, him trying to either kill or discredit Lily, and her trying to win his heart and hopefully a place next time him as his new wife. But with the British class system being what it was back then Lily’s dreams were always going to be shattered, one way or another, which leads the film to its troubling conclusion.
Footsteps in the Fog is a terrific movie that sadly seems to have been somewhat neglected in the way of accolades in recent years, which is a shame. Nicely shot and edited, and full of memorable performances from a game cast, the film always holds your attention and leaves you wanting to know more about the central character of Lily. The lovely Jean Simmons is fantastic as Lily, who is a very complex character, and Granger is also on top form essaying Stephen Lowry, himself a very layered man; partly evil, but partly very sympathetic. And William Hartnell (in his pre Dr Who days) is also very good as Lily’s sister’s conniving husband who also tries to blackmail Stephen, but ends up telling his story to the wrong man and getting arrested for his trouble!
Footsteps is considerably better than I was expecting it to be and is wholeheartedly recommended to those who enjoy a good gothic melodrama with a horror twist.
Powerhouse Films are distributing Footsteps in the Fog on Blu-ray and are to be commended for their excellent HD transfer of the film, complete with remastered mono audio. Extras on the disc include:
A Guardian interview with actor Stewart Granger (70 mins approx.) Not actually an interview, but more of a one-man performance followed by some questions from the audience. Granger is on fine form though, and talks about how he got into acting, and about some of the people that he’s worked with. He talks about having to do quite a few of his own stunts on various films and about learning to fence, and about a close encounter he nearly had with a dangerous chandelier!
Belinda, Goddess of Devon (27 mins) – Steve Chibnall talks about this underrated actress (Belinda Lee) who was probably best known for her rather cheeky role as head-girl in the original St. Trinians movies.
Something in the air (26.5 mins) – Film guru Josephine Botting talks about Footsteps in the Fog. Botting touches on ‘gaslight’ as a subgenre of film, then talks in detail about the film in question. Apparently it was a 42 day shoot, and the film ended up as a B-picture in the UK.
An original theatrical trailer (2.07 mins) – a trailer very much ‘of its time’!
Image gallery – 77 photos from the film, including several cool posters.
Presentation booklet (36 pages) – A great collection of interesting essays and information about the film and its production history.