The Case of the Frightened Lady (film)

The Case of the Frightened Lady is a 1940 British, black-and-white, crime, drama, mystery thriller, directed by George King and starring Ronald Shiner as Detective Sergeant Totty, Felix Aylmer, Helen Haye and Marius Goring.[1] It was produced by Pennant Picture Productions and presented by British Lion Film Corporation. The film is based on a play by Edgar Wallace.[2]

The Case of the Frightened Lady
Danish poster
Directed byGeorge King
Produced byS.W. Smith
Written byEdward Dryhurst (screenplay)
Robert Stevenson (uncredited)
Based onplay by Edgar Wallace
StarringMarius Goring
Helen Haye
Penelope Dudley Ward
Music byJack Beaver
CinematographyHone Glendinning
Edited byLeslie Norman
George King Productions (as Pennant Pictures)
Distributed byBritish Lion Film Corporation (UK)
Release date
28 September 1940 (UK)
Running time
81 minutes

This production was the second time that Wallace’s play had been adapted for the cinema. The first production in 1932 was directed by T. Hayes Hunter and starred Emlyn Williams.[3] The BBC also produced two television versions; the first in 1938 and the second in 1983 which starred Warren Clarke and Virginia McKenna.[4] [5]

In 2008, the film was released on DVD by Odeon Entertainment as part of their 'Best of British' collection. Prior to this release, the film had not been seen in public since its original release. [6]


The story is a thriller that revolves around the Lebanon family who live at Mark’s Priory. Lady Lebanon (Helen Haye) tells her son, William, Lord Lebanon (Marius Goring) that he must marry his cousin Isla Crane (Penelope Dudley Ward) to continue the family line. However, William has no intention of marrying Isla and matters are made more complicated due to Isla falling in love with architect, Richard Ferraby (Patrick Barr), who has come to Mark’s Priory to draw up renovation plans. At the same time, the strange behaviour of two footmen and the family physician (Felix Aylmer) add to the mystery surrounding the family and eventually rumour and speculation lead to a murderous conclusion.


Critical reception

The New York Times wrote, "the sort of thing Edgar Wallace could make intriguing on paper—or, on the stage, as he did in telling of the horrendous doings at Mark's Priory in Criminal at Large about ten years ago. But the old shocker has lost most of its punch...There are several reasons why Frightened Lady doesn't come off as it should. One is that Director George King has not evidenced any regard for suspense, the other is that the performances, on the whole, are uninspired. But perhaps the real reason is that the story itself is outmoded for cinematic treatment" ;[7] while Britmovie called it "a tightly written murder mystery...probably one of the best scored films of the 1940s, with the piano dirges being played throughout the movie, “The Case of the Frightened Lady” is a fast moving story... (it) remains a classic for those who enjoy this genre of film" ;[8] and Vérité noted "a fun and feisty thriller that unlike so many modern films, doesn't outstay its welcome." [9]


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