The Spell of Amy Nugent

08/10/2021 09:36

Film: The Spell of Amy Nugent

Year: 1941

Director: John Harlow

Writer: Miles Malleson

Starring: Derek Farr, Vera Lindsay and Hay Petrie



This is one of the last movies from 1941 in the horror genre that I could find. It took a bit of searching, but I did find a solid copy on YouTube. Aside from that, I saw the title and some of the alternative titles this went by. It seemed to work out for an interesting double feature on Journey with a Cinephile: A Horror Movie Podcast. The synopsis is a young man’s fiancée dies after contracting a terminal illness and in his efforts to contact her; he gets involved with a group of spiritualists.

For this movie, we are starting with Diana Hilton (Vera Lindsay) coming to visit with Mrs. Baxter (Winifred Davis). The older woman has hopes that Diana will marry her son. They go out to meet with him as he is working with a horse. His name is Laurie Baxter (Derek Farr). He comes across as a bit cold but does agree to come to dinner.

From there Diana and Mrs. Baxter head into town. They go to the local store where they meet the daughter of the owners, Amy Nugent (Diana King). She is home from school to help her parents. We also learn that she is a bit sickly. As these two women leave, Laurie rides his horse by. Later we learn that Laurie is seeing Amy and he wants to marry her.

When he reveals this to his mother, she is quite upset. They have a reputation, so this would be him marrying below his standing. Things take an odd turn though. Laurie goes to see Amy, but her parents, Cameron Hall and Iren Handl, refuse him. They do send for him later. The problem is that once he does, they sent him away because Amy became ill and the doctor reveals she has passed away.

A Mrs. Stapleton (Marian Spencer) then comes to visit with Mrs. Baxter and she leaves a book behind. Laurie investigates and it gives him an idea. He wants to seek out Mr. Vincent (Frederick Leister) who holds séances. He doesn’t believe it will work, but after meeting with this man, he loses 2 hours of time. Mr. Vincent reveals that a spirit inhabited his body. He is terrified by this, but also intrigued.

When Laurie reveals this information to his friend of Mr. Morton (Felix Aylmer), he wants his friend to abandon his exploration. He goes as far as reaching out to Mr. Cathcart (Hay Petrie), who studied as a spiritualist for some time. Mr. Cathcart becomes quite concerned when he realizes that his old friend of Mr. Vincent is involved, as these two have a history.

I believe that is where I’m going to leave my recap for this movie. Now where I want to start with breaking it down is that this movie is based off a novel from what I saw. That isn’t surprising, but what I find interesting is the depth of story that we get here and the ideas that they’re exploring. The ideas that are presented here are still being used 80+ years later, which I find most intriguing.

At the core of this, we are getting a love story that turns to a drama. Laurie has fallen for Amy, but she is ‘beneath’ him. He is a gentlemen and his mother wants him to marry a lady. When Diana shows up, that complicates things. I liked that the movie introduced that Amy was sickly as a child so when she passes, it makes sense. Laurie’s love for her is strong. When he sees a chance to talk to her from beyond the grave, he takes it. He is spooked by some things that turn him off on these séances. He is pressured by Mr. Vincent, which makes him a subtle villain. This was a good set up for me.

There is the idea that I remember first seeing in The Exorcist here. Mr. Morton doesn’t believe what this group is doing is real. It is Mr. Cathcart that points out that he’s studied it and worked with Mr. Vincent. He confirms what he is doing has results. It is just more difficult to prove with normal science. The reason I brought up this horror classic in The Exorcist though is that, just because whatever you’re communicating with states it is someone, doesn’t make it real. Mr. Cathcart tries to tell Laurie that whatever responded claims to be Amy, doesn’t mean it really is. That caught my attention.

The last aspect of the story I want to delve into is Laurie and his love-life. I’ve already laid out the players here. He wants Amy, but death complicated that. Diana is interested in him and he actually develops interest for her. When he decides not to dabble with forces he doesn’t understand, the two of them spend a lot of time together. I think this aspect of the movie is developed well. My only issue would be how things end here. Diana and her knowing what Laurie is doing are interesting as well. I guess it is a different time so I could see her allowing it as she does.

I would say that next I want to go over to the acting. Farr is solid here as Laurie. I see a bit of myself him in. He is indecisive after Amy passes. He doesn’t want to move on and I can’t fully blame him. He needs time. Where I see myself though is that Mr. Vincent guilts him into coming to the séance. It is also interesting that we learn that Laurie can help prove what he believes to be true, so he is using it as an experiment. Lindsay is solid as Diana. I liked Petrie and Aylmer for their roles as they try to help Laurie. Leister makes a solid villain in Mr. Vincent. From there, I’d say the rest of the cast rounded this movie out for what was needed.

So, then the last thing that I wanted to go into would be the cinematography, effects and soundtrack. This movie looked to be shot well and fit for the era. We don’t get a lot in the way of effects, but I liked what they did with a ghostly apparition that appears. It looked solid enough for the period this was made. The soundtrack didn’t really stand out to me, but I do have to say, the copy I watched wasn’t in the greatest shape, so it is hard to hold this against the movie too much. It doesn’t help this is foreign and my subtitles were computer generated.

In conclusion here, I thought this movie was interesting. The premise is something that we are still seeing today, making this one early in the sub-genre. That has some historical significance for me, as I do like what they’re doing with it. I think that we develop the characters enough so I give credit to the acting there. The cinematography is solid along with what effects we get. The movie is a bit slow though if I’m honest and the soundtrack didn’t sound the greatest. I would like to see a cleaned-up copy if that might help. For me though, this movie is over average and falling just short of going above that due to some of my issues.


My Rating: 6.5 out of 10