So this is a bit of an interesting situation for me. See, when I went to look up information on today’s movie, it was bringing me to a different movie, One Minute Before Death. Now that in itself is not that unusual because sometimes movies will show up listed as a different name but this one is supposedly two different movies. Either way, I couldn’t find a picture of a movie poster with the actual title, and didn’t want to use the one for One Minute Before Death in case they actually were different movies. So let’s get right into today’s movie, The Oval Portrait.
The plot: On a stormy night, a carriage stops at an old house and lets off two women, the elderly Mrs. Buckingham and her adult daughter Lisa. Though the driver questions their wanting to stay there as the house is rumored to be haunted Mrs. Buckingham calls it nonsense and the carriage leaves but as they start to head inside, Lisa sees a woman in white approaching the house but she suddenly vanishes. Inside, they light some candles and Mrs. Buckingham goes to try and find the house’s caretaker, Mrs. Warren while Lisa looks around the ground floor of the house. Entering one of the rooms, Lisa becomes fixated on a portrait of a young woman in an oval frame and ends up being startled by Mrs. Warren. When Mrs. Buckingham arrives, Lisa says that they must leave as she knows the place is haunted but Mrs. Buckingham tells her not to be silly and they have no place else to go. Mrs. Warren shows them to their rooms and Lisa asks her mother to stay with her, still worried about the house and Mrs. Buckingham says she will feel better when Paul and Regina arrive. That night, Lisa hears the sound of a horse arriving and someone playing the piano downstairs. Going to check things out, Lisa sees a man playing the piano while talking to a woman named Rebecca. When he stops playing, he approaches a figure sitting in a chair, commenting about the portrait of her hanging over the fireplace, before he starts questioning what happened to them. When Lisa makes a sound, the man asks who is there, then notices that Rebecca is gone and asks Lisa why she came to the house. The next day, Lisa is reading a book and finds a note inside that was written by a man named Joseph Hudson for Rebecca, the woman in the painting, but when Lisa looks up, she sees the ghost of Rebecca approaching her and when it disappears, the note is gone as well. Meanwhile, Mrs. Buckingham is showing a friend of her late brother, Captain Jackson, around and he comments on the portrait of Rebecca. After Lisa is introduced to Captain Jackson, Mrs. Warren shows up with a telegram for Mrs. Buckingham but when she sees Captain Jackson, she yells at him and he decides to leave. Mrs. Buckingham tells off Mrs. Warren, after which she reads the letter and tells Lisa that Paul and Regina are delayed and won’t be there today. The next day, the new cook Doris arrives and Mrs. Buckingham shows her to the servant’s quarters. Meanwhile, Lisa found one of Rebecca’s dresses and puts it on before heading outside but when Joseph sees her, he thinks she is Rebecca and tries to kiss her. When Lisa pushes him away, he grows angry at her wearing Rebecca’s dress and tries to rip it from her. Lisa runs back inside and Mrs. Warren tries to comfort her but when she sees the dress, she tells Lisa to never wear any of Rebecca’s clothes, as they bring up painful memories for everyone that knew her. Lisa changes clothes and heads into the parlor looking for her mother but she suddenly sees the ghost of Rebecca exiting the picture and heading towards her, causing her to faint. When Mrs. Buckingham’s brother’s lawyer arrives, Mrs. Buckingham invites him into the parlor to talk and they find Lisa lying on the floor. after reviving her, the lawyer asks if he should fetch the doctor but Mrs. Warren says the only thing that can save her is to get her away from the house. When Lisa is revived, she asks Mrs. Warren to help her to her room and while there, asks about Joseph. Mrs. Warren explains that during the Civil War, Joseph was a Confederate soldier bring pursued by Union soldiers and had hidden in the house. The Union soldiers show up and ask to search the house but Rebecca’s father declares that no one is hiding in the house and they leave. Rebecca had noticed the man’s shoes hiding behind a curtain and after her father heads back upstairs, she gets Mrs. Warren to help her tend to his wounds. The next day, Rebecca’s father receives an invitation to attend a ball with Rebecca and he is angered over it while Rebecca wishes to go and he yells at her, saying she is just like her mother, who he called a whore. Mrs. Warren tries to apologize for Rebecca’s father, saying that he loved her mother so much that it ended up turning into bitter jealousy. As Joseph regains his strength, he wants to leave as he doesn’t wish to put Rebecca in any danger. When her father leaves to return to his regiment, Rebecca convinces Joseph to stay with her and be safe and the two end up falling in love. Joseph suggest that the get married and Rebecca eagerly agrees and asks what he did before he was a soldier. He tells her he was a painter and says he wants to paint a portrait of her. As they have a small wedding ceremony in the house, Union soldiers arrive and interrupt the wedding to arrest Joseph, having been alerted to it by the priest. Rebecca is saddened by the events and one night she keels over in pain, as she is pregnant with Joseph’s child, and Mrs. Warren helps her to her bed. Meanwhile, Rebecca’s father returns to the house and notices the painting in the parlor. When Mrs. Warren goes down to get the doctor, she sees Rebecca’s father and he asks her about the portrait. When Captain Jackson shows up at the house, Mrs. Warren begs him not to say anything but as he is leaving, he comments that they caught the soldier they were chasing and that he should ask Rebecca about where he was hiding. After questioning Mrs. Warren and realizing she had lied to him, Rebecca’s father rushes to Rebecca’s room and learns that what happened and becomes enraged, grabbing Rebecca and forcefully throwing her out of the house. Some time later, Rebecca’s father ends up catatonic and the doctor suggest having him placed in a hospital before going to check on Rebecca, who is heartbroken over losing her child and blames her father for the loss. Months later, Joseph returns to the house and asks to see Rebecca but Mrs. Warren directs him to the foyer, where he sees that Rebecca has died. After the funeral, Mrs. Warren tells Joseph that he is welcome to stay at the house until he figures out what he wants to do but when she leaves, Joseph hears Rebecca’s voice coming up from the grave. and he cries out in grief and ends up digging up her body. Mrs. Warren finishes telling her story and leaves the room as Lisa is asleep, but a voice is heard calling out to Lisa. Some time later, Regina arrives at the house and Mrs. Buckingham asks her to speak to Lisa, as she has been locked in her room for days but when Regina tries to talk to her, Lisa refuses to open the door. As everyone has gathered, the lawyer begins to read the will but Mrs. Warren says that the major had made a new will the day after kicking Rebecca out of the house and the doctor had signed as witness and when the lawyer asks her about it, she retrieves the will from the safety box. The new will gives Mrs. Warren the house while the rest of his estate is divided among his living relatives. Lisa enters the parlor and Mrs. Buckingham suggests that they leave like Mrs. Warren had suggested months ago but Lisa refuses to leave. When Mrs. Buckingham asks Doris to help her pack Lisa’s bags, the doors all suddenly begin opening and closing, while candles and vases begin hovering in the air. Rebecca’s laughter is heard while Lisa disappears and Paul, Regina’s husband, goes looking for her. Lisa is in her room and starts yelling at Rebecca that all of her things are hers now, then makes her way to Mrs. Warren’s room where she passes out, dropping the lantern she was carrying and setting the room on fire but Paul manages to save her. The next day, Mrs. Warren says goodbye to everyone and as Lisa leaves, she looks out the window to see Joseph watching her. That night, Joseph is playing the piano and dancing with Rebecca’s corpse and Mrs. Warren sees him doing this. As his madness overtakes him further, Mrs. Warren calls out to him and reveals that she is his mother and had forged the will to try and give him happiness but his madness is too far gone and she ends up shooting him. As Joseph lays dying in her arms, he calls her mother before passing away and his spirit joins Rebecca for eternity.
Man, this was kind of an exhausting movie to watch because the pacing was just weird. The acting was so-so, with Gisele MacKenzie (Mrs. Warren) being the most interesting character in the movie but that wasn’t by much as almost all of them were pretty bland. The story was interesting but the pacing was just weird. It starts off in the present, but then spends almost half of the time in a flashback, before returning to the present. This tended to kill any sort of mood that the opening segment tried to build up, then it felt like they rushed to try and recapture the mood in the end. The ending was also a bit of a weird twist and the whole reveal about Mrs. Warren being Joseph’s mother didn’t really seem necessary. The special effects regarding the floating candles at the end were incredibly cheesy and almost cheap looking. An interesting movie but the bad pacing keeps it from being too effective.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5