HOUSE OF DARKNESS. International Motion Pictures, UK, 1948. George Melachrinos, Henry Oscar, Lesley Osmond, Alexander Archdale, John Teed, Grace Arnold, and introducing Lawrence Harvey. Written by John Gilling. Directed by Oswald Mitchell.

   A stylish little quota quickie that brought Lawrence (or Laurence) Harvey to the screen and established his persona for all time.

   Orchestra leader George Melachrinos, an arranger in the Mantovani/Kostelanetz mode, starts off the film relating a ghost story about visiting a haunted mansion, setting up a flashback to the lives of its last tenants, a family that make The Little Foxes look like the Brady Bunch.

   It seems sometime before the story started, stodgy eldest son John (Alexander Archdale) was left in control of an estate that younger half-brother Francis (Harvey) thinks should be his. And since John suffers from a weak heart while Francis has no heart at all, the writing — or more accurately the script — is on the wall for all to see, especially after John is out of the way and Harvey drives his other sibling off by convincing him that John’s Ghost walks the halls at night.

   No surprises here, but writer john Gilling (who went on to some fine horror flicks at Hammer) seems to have gauged Harvey’s screen persona perfectly (Brother John calls him “An insufferable, conceited cad,” which puts it very neatly) and written lines that only he could do this well. And when John’s ghost actually makes his return, it’s done with a creepy understatement that comes off very well indeed.

   House of Darkness doesn’t quite escape its quota quickie onus, but it works quite nicely as an effective ghost story and a showcase for an up-and-coming star who would have done better to stick to parts like this.