Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

The Red House (1947)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

The Red House (1947)

In Delmer Daves' gothic, low-budget horror noir-thriller with the chilling music of Miklos Rozsa, about a secluded family living near a haunted woodsy area with a red house - holding undisclosed, hidden sexual and murderous transgressions and secrets from the past:

  • the film's narrator opened the film with an ominous prologue: (voice-over) "Dense forest once covered all of Piney Ridge, but no longer is the region a mystery. Modern highways have penetrated the darkness, and brought in the light. Not so in Ox Head Woods, further south. Step into it off the abandoned road that hugs its length, and it's like passing through a wall and closing the door behind you. Obsolete trails wander vaguely, crisscross, or break at right angles for no reason. Only one leads to the Morgan farm. Pete Morgan's farm has the allure of a walled castle that everybody knows about, but few have entered. Its only access to the outside world is a country road that passes by"
  • the opening scene hinted at budding sexuality; in the back of the high school bus, two teens talked about swimming together at the reservoir; vixenish, sexually-eager Tibby Renton (Julie London) suggested to her steady boyfriend Nath Storm (Lon McCallister) to not wear their suits but change there: "We'll change at the reservoir"; she also often flirted with older bad-boy and local handyman Teller (Rory Calhoun) who bragged: "I'm good at plenty of things they don't teach in school"
Main Younger Characters
Tibby Renton (Julie London) with Nath Storm (Lon McCallister)
Teller (Rory Calhoun)
Meg Morgan
(Allene Roberts)
  • the main characters: a farm-dwelling family in an isolated setting composed of:
    - a haunted, deeply-troubled, anguished and reclusive, wooden-legged farmer Pete Morgan (Edward G. Robinson), a patriarch who didn't like "outsiders"
    - Pete's spinster sister Ellen Morgan (Judith Anderson)
    - their 15 year-old adopted step-daughter Meg (Allene Roberts)
  • the hiring of Meg's teenaged 12 grade classmate Nath Storm to work on the farm as extra help for "evening chores"; during dinner after work on his first night, Nath asked about the Morgan household, and mentioned that locals referred to the brother and sister as the "Mysterious Morgans"; he also asked about Meg's adoption (when she was two years old) - wondering if "Meg's mother and father ran away and left her when she was still a baby"; Pete and Ellen clarified that it was a legal adoption: "Meg's mother and father went down south to find a new farm. They left Meg in our care. They died down there in a runaway"; Meg also added: "There's nothing wrong with being adopted. I'm grateful"
  • in the film, there was ever-present the foreboding existence of a woodsy area known as the Ox Head Woods surrounding the isolated farm - it was an area that one was forbidden to enter; a crazed Pete warned Nath that the woods were cursed and should be avoided as a shortcut at all costs: ("I'd take the long way around if I were you....I wouldn't cross through those woods at night"); defiant, Nath was insistent: "I'll save two miles by cutting through the woods" - and then Pete emphatically stated that wild sounds would emanate from a cryptic red house in the woods: ("You won't save yourself from the screams in the night...It'll lodge in your bones all your life...from the red house.. Did you ever run away from the scream? You can't. It will follow you through the woods. It will follow you all of your life")
  • the scene of Nath's scary and frightening walk (accentuated by Rozsa's score) while taking a shortcut through the woods to return home in a rainstorm; the howling and whistling winds (simulating screams) - were a symbol of something 'evil' that inhabited woods; he was prevented from making it through, and fled back to the Morgan house to stay the night in the barn; the next morning, he told Pete: "You scared the daylights out of me last night....I went in those woods and I heard things....I don't know whether it was the screams you were talking about or just the wind"; later on the way to school, Meg mentioned her fear of the woods' secret and the red house: "He's just warned me to stay out of those woods, since I was little....I'd be afraid to find out"
  • the next evening, Nath ventured out a second time through the woods to return home after work - to prove to himself and Pete that he wasn't a coward: "Nobody's gonna call me yellow"; he was struck from behind by an unknown individual, and knocked down into a stream (injuring his back in the fall); he returned to the farm and accused Pete: "It wasn't a piece of that red house that knocked me into the stream, Mr. Morgan. And it wasn't a scream in the night that bowled me over. It was a human, a human strong enough to nearly kill me" - although Pete had been at the house all night
  • in a discussion afterwards, Meg volunteered to help when Nath vowed he would find out the cause of the "curse" and locate the red haunted house - "There's some connection between Pete's red house and whoever hit me. I'm gonna find out what goes on out there if it takes exploring every Sunday between now and doomsday"; without luck, Meg, Nath, and Tibby searched the woods for the mysterious red house - without any luck
  • the characterization of Tibby - as a sexually-willing, provocative and shrewd temptress, who wanted Nath all to herself (without sharing him with Meg), telling him: "Do you love me?...Just keep me well kissed. I like to be kissed" - and "Don't think you're going to talk me into a kiss goodbye. I want you to miss 'em, long enough to make them more important than haunted houses. So save it for next Sunday"
  • meanwhile, Tibby became engaged in a secretive affair (when Nath was absent) with Teller; after helping her across a stream, he forced her to kiss him
Tibby to Nath During Swimming Date: "I like to be kissed"
Tibby with Nath - Jealous of His Friendship with Meg
Teller Forcing a Kiss from Tibby
  • the sequence of Pete's intimidating ultimatum to Meg for disobeying him and entering the woods: "All I have in the world is you. If there's anything you want, I'll get it for you, but there's one thing you've gotta do for me. You stay out of those woods!" - but she defied him: "I've grown up, and I've gotta right to do as I please"; he threatened corporal punishment: "I've never laid hands on you in my life, but I'll take the whip to you if you do!"
  • the revelation that Pete Morgan had hired Teller to keep trespassers out of the woods, in exchange for hunting-and-game rights in the area; he even authorized Teller to use deadly force to scare trespassers away: "I don't want anybody to get hurt, but there's no better way of backing up a No Trespassing sign than by a bullet missing somebody's skull"
  • Meg and Nath concurred: ("There's something out in those woods. Something tells me we won't find out what it is until I find the red house. Bust it open, I guess, and let some light in. Maybe it'll shake the creeps out of a lot of things"); she assured him ("We'll find it")
  • the Sunday afternoon sequence - Meg went prowling in the woods for the red house by herself; she found the dilapidated and abandoned red house and a derelict ice house; on guard, Teller fired his gun at her to frighten her away, and when she fled, she fell and broke her leg; that evening, Nath went searching for her, and located her, and brought her back to the Morgan farm
Meg's Discovery
The Red House
The Ice House
Teller Guarding the Woods With His Gun
  • in a dramatic scene, Pete commiserated with Ellen that his efforts to keep the red house a secret from Meg for 15 years were now shattered - he could no longer shelter her from the past: "I'm losing her. I've fought fate 15 years ago, and I lost"; Ellen tried to comfort Pete as he began to go mad: "Do you think there's a man on earth who hasn't something to conceal? Every living soul has his Ox Head Woods", Pete cryptically recalled an event from the past: "I can still see her. She knew there was nothing I could do about it. He knew it...Why didn't they go before it happened?...Why did she scream? I loved her, she knew it....There's no certain place for me on Earth except out there in that icehouse. That's where I belong....I'd rather she was dead than ever hear the screams. I'd rather she was dead. I'd rather I died out there in the muck and dirt. That's where I belong"; Ellen suggested a drastic solution: "I should have burned that place down....I should've burned it down and the icehouse and the woods with it"
  • in secret, Meg described the house in the woods to Nath: "Ugly and awful. But Nath, I had the feeling I've been there before....I even seem to remember the icehouse back against the rocks. Water shimmered out from under it as if it were flooded"
  • the creepy scene when Pete entered Meg's bedroom and derangedly called her "Jeannie" ("Sleep soundly, Jeannie") and then strangely retreated
  • soon after, Nath was fired for further disobedience after he was accused of prompting Meg to enter the woods, but Nath argued back: ("You've got no right to treat her like a child"); subsequently, he was banished forever from both the farm and from seeing Meg: ("I don't want you here anymore. Get out, now!... Never trespass on my property again. If you do, you'll get hurt"), and he began working for the Rentons
  • the scene of Ellen confronting Pete for quarreling with Nath and firing him - she claimed it was for the same reason that he had murdered his former girlfriend's (named "Jeannie") husband in the 'red house' - she warned him not to become possessive of Meg, as he did with Meg's mother, Jeannie: "For the same reason you killed Jeannie's husband. Because you wanted her all to yourself!" - Pete reacted in a rage by throwing a piece of furniture at Ellen and injuring her right arm
  • in a second instance, Pete (with a trance-like gaze) greeted Meg as "Jeannie" when she swam up to him in the nearby pond: ("This is the way it could always be, Jeannie. We don't need anybody else")
  • the confessional scene between Pete and Ellen when it was revealed that she had given up a romantic relationship with Dr. Byrne, the town's physician, in order to tend to her brother Pete who was going insane due to the incident at the red house: ("I've given my life to you, Pete, because you're my brother and I loved you, and you needed me. You know what it's meant to me, what I've lost. You know what Jonathan Byrne and I might have wouldn't let me take Meg with me if I did (marry him)"; Pete claimed he had to keep the red house's secrets from Meg - otherwise she would loathe him: "I can't let her go. As long as the red house stands in that quarry, my whole life is Meg's and her life is mine"; Ellen threatened to burn the house down to end Pete's obsession ("I'm going to burn that place out of Pete's mind")
  • the sequence of Ellen's venture into the woods to torch the house - where she was accidentally shot by Teller (who thought it was Nath) and was lethally wounded; Pete refused to help, telling Meg that she and Ellen had been punished by the evil woods - and then shortly later, Ellen expired: ("Ellen's lost now. Lost. Nothing will help...You're not going back in there, you can't do it. You'll be lost too, believe me, I know the woods are evil...She forgot the woods. That's what's killed her...You defy the woods, and you will hurt. She defied them, and she's dead"); notified of Ellen's passing, Nath had called the Sheriff and Dr. Byrne, and took Pete's rifle to pursue Teller (who was already arrested leaving town with Tibby to elope)
  • in the film's key scene, Pete revealed to Meg what happened 15 years earlier -- Pete was engaged in an adulterous love affair with Meg's mother Genevieve ("Jeannie"); Meg was born in the red house; when the cheating was revealed and the couple vowed to leave town, Pete went to the red house to plead with "Jeannie" not to leave and to choose him; when the jealous husband Herb returned in a horse-drawn surrey, Pete covered "Jeannie's" mouth to prevent her from screaming (and accidentally killed her by smothering her); then he murdered the husband with a bullwhip and buried both of their bodies in the bottom of the icehouse in their sunken surrey; Pete attempted suicide in the quarry but was saved by Ellen; Pete and Ellen raised their child Meg since she was an infant - without her knowing
Pete's Revelation to Meg About the Red House 15 Years Earlier
  • in the concluding sequence at the red house, Pete called Meg "Jeannie" again and believed she was his past lover - re-enacting the scene from 15 years earlier: ("Don't go with him, Jeannie. I can't live without you") - and then Pete covered her mouth when she called out for the Sheriff and Nath who were approaching outside; Pete nearly suffocated Meg the way he had accidentally killed her mother; after Meg was rescued, Pete fled in his truck - driving it into the icehouse where he drowned in his sinking vehicle
Pete's Death in Sinking Truck
  • one of the final images was a wheel from the sunken surrey floating to the surface from the melted ice pond beneath the icehouse; Pete's body joined those of the two he had murdered
  • to fulfill Ellen's dying wishes, Nath burned down the red house (dark smoke was seen in the distance)- and was looking forward to a better future with Meg: "Looking forward is much better than looking back"

Pete Morgan (Edward G. Robinson)

Ellen Morgan (Judith Anderson)

Pete's Warning to Nath: "You won't save yourself from the screams in the night"

Sign in the Ox Head Woods

Hearing Screams, Nath Decided to Abort Short-cut Through Woods

During Second Walk - Nath Was Struck From Behind - and He Accused Morgan

Nath and Meg Partnered Together

Pete's Ultimatum to Meg: "You stay out of those woods!"

Ellen to Pete: "Every living soul has his Ox Head Woods!"

Pete Entering Meg's Bedroom - Calling Her "Jeannie"

Ellen Accusing Pete of a Past Crime

Flirtatious and Wild Tibby Breaking Up with Nath to Be with Teller

2nd Instance of Pete Calling Meg "Jeannie"

Ellen - Determined to Burn Down the Red House

Meg Begging for Pete's Help After Ellen Was Shot - He Refused

Ellen's Death

Pete and Meg's Arrival at the Red House

Pete Became Delusional - Frightening Meg

Pete Smothering Meg

Surrey Wheel Surfacing

Ending Image: Meg with Nath


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