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‘Strangler of the Swamp,’ PRC’s best film

‘Strangler of the Swamp,’ PRC’s best film

Strangler of the SwampStrangler of the Swamp Poster

Written by Frank Wisbar and Harold Erickson

Directed by Frank Wisbar

USA, 1946

“Old legends – strange tales – never die in the lonely swampland. Villages and hamlets lie remote and almost forgotten. Small ferryboats glide between the shores, and the ferryman is a very important person. Day and night he is at the command of his passengers. On his little barge ride the good and the evil; the friendly and the hostile; the superstitious and the enlightened; the living and – sometimes – the dead.”

In Frank Wisbar’s Strangler of the Swamp, townspeople mourn the loss of members of the community who have died via strangulation. The deaths have caused a rift in the community. Some believe the rational explanation that people have died as a result of their own foolhardiness in the swamp. Others know better. They suspect that “The Strangler,” a ghost of an innocent man the town hanged, has been killing the male descendants of the men who sentenced him to death.

Everything begins with a ferry. To get to the other side of town, people must ride a ferry from one dock to another. This ferry lies in the dreaded swamp and had been run by Ferryman Douglas (Charles Middleton), until his tragic death. At the beginning of the film, his granddaughter, Maria (Rosemary La Planche) returns to take his place. Chris Sanders Jr. (Blake Edwards) also comes home and falls in love with Maria. Soon, Chris becomes a target, because his father, Christian Sanders (Robert Barat), was one of the men to wrongly accuse “The Strangler.” It is up to Maria to fight for Chris’s life.

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Strangler of the Swamp Maria and Chris

Strangler of the Swamp is a short and sweet film made by Producer’s Releasing Corporation to be part of a double bill at the cinema. Yet it has something a little bit extra than most of PRC’s other films. Not only is the story a mystery, but the basic premise relies on a man being wrongly accused of murder by members of his own community. Unlike films that would demonize “The Strangler” as being evil for exacting his revenge, viewers of Strangler of the Swamp understand the ghost’s actions. Justification for the deaths can be made on both sides. This moral question of empathy underlines the film. Ultimately, it is sacrifice and understanding that rid the town of “The Strangler.”

— Karen Bacallar