Dragonwyck was the first major starring role for Vincent Price, a classic gothic romance . Made in 1946, it gave Price his first big lead role, although he had been around as an actor for a while. It sets up the persona that he would play in many films, including the Edgar Allen Poe movies, a slightly campy aristocrat who turns out to not be a good guy.
Gene Tierney plays a Connecticut farm girl who is working as a governess for his younger daughter. As you might imagine, people start dying and they have a rather twisted relationship, as usual. Walter Huston also appears. It’s about madness and control, all the aspects you expect from gothic romance. It has the great gloomy mansion, the heightened atmosphere, and the sense of mystery that helped to create a template for this form. And it’s pretty enjoyable.
For Joseph L. Mankiewicz, this was his directorial debut, following 17 years as a screenwriter. Mankiewicz would go on to have a major career in the 40s and 50s. It’s beautifully shot by Arthur C. Miller, one of John Ford’s early go-to cinematographers. He continued to work with Mankiewicz, and but best remembered for How Green Was My Valley.
There has been a bit of controversy over its genre designation as it has actual murders instead of a supernatural plot, with the action set against a backdrop of the tenant farmer revolts of the 1800s in the US. Price plays the guy they have to pay, but it isn’t a major part of the plot. He does a super job in the role, which was one of his few major studio film leading parts and not smaller studios like AIP.
The disc includes quite a few special features, such as an archival NFT interview with Vincent Price, two different radio versions (also starring Price), a commentary by Steve Haberman and Constantine Nasr, and a short documentary about the film. Also here are the isolated film music and effects track, a stills gallery, the original trailer, and a booklet with new and archival writing about the film.