Strangler of the Swamp (1946) - full transcript

A number of swamp land men have died by strangulation and the inhabitants believe that an innocent man they hanged is seeking revenge on all of the male descendants of those responsible for his death. Maria, granddaughter of the guilty ferryman, decides to operate the ferry service. Chris Sanders, a son of one of the men who did the hanging, and Maria fall in love. The "strangler" seizes Chris and Maria offers her life if Chris is spared.

[upbeat music]

[intense music]

[haunting music]

[frogs croaking]

[haunting music]

- [Joseph] Can I
be of anymore help?

- [Christian] No thank you
Joseph, we'll handle it.

[frogs croaking]

[haunting music]

- Who is it Christian?

- Bill Craig, drowned.

- Poor Louise, her only son.

- Bill Craig, but I saw
him only this afternoon,

he was going swimming,
where did you find him?!

- In the swamp near the ferry,

only his legs were sticking out.

We had a hard time
to get him loose.

- How dreadful.

The noose!

- Quiet, quiet I say.

Can't you see you fools?!

There's only a few vines
and roots around his neck,

nothing else!

- It's a perfect noose
for anybody who can see!

It's the Strangler again!

- Oh don't be silly, look.

- You see!

- If the County Council
had listened to me they

would have allotted
money to drain the swamp,

this wouldn't have happened!

- Draining the swamp would
never drive away the Strangler,

it's not that easy
to get rid of him.

- Right there isn't
any Strangler!

He exists only in your
own superstitious mind.

- Is that so?!

Then why did you send your son
to the city never to return?

It's because you know
you're all marked men,

you and Chris and
Joseph and my husband.

- Oh you're crazy!

Sanders, Jeffers, carry
the boy to his home,

I'll go ahead and
inform his mother.

[melancholy music]

- It was the Strangler got Bill.

- Everything is coming
true as he said it would,

word for word, let's go and
take down that cursed rope.

- Yes.

[eerie music]

[metal clanks]

[frogs croaking]

[eerie music]

- Whose there?

- [Martina] Martina Sanders.

- What are you doing here
at this time of night?

- Just take us across to
the other side Joseph.

[eerie music]

- They found Bill Craig tonight,
a noose around his neck.

- I saw Bill but I didn't
see anything like a noose.

- The Strangler got him.

- You'd believe
anything wouldn't you?

Why doesn't he visit me?

I live closest to his grave.

- He will, you too
are a marked man.

- I'd like to see that old
drunken card sharp again.

- He was all that yes and no
good but was he a murderer?

- [Joseph] Of course he
was, everyone knows that.

- It was your testimony
that hanged him Joseph,

he offered an alibi.

- If only you had listened
to the few who didn't agree

but no you had to act quickly.

He just couldn't die fast
enough for your crazy raid.

- And you got what you always
wanted didn't you Joseph?

His ferry.

- What do you mean?

- Nothing, nothing.

- Then hold your tongue.

[foreboding music]

- [Christina] That eviler
noose was made when they found

Farmer Berkeley murdered in
his field and they accused

ferryman Douglas of the
crime and hanged him.

He screamed that he
was innocent, but
that didn't stop them.

It was then that
he spoke the curse.

Joseph why have you let that
rope hang here all these years?

- [Joseph] It
serves as a warning.

- A warning, to who?

Joseph we're going
to take that down!

- [Joseph] No, it stays there!

Since that's been there there
hasn't been anymore trouble.

- There's been more trouble
then ever since it hangs there,

have you forgotten Bill
Jenkins who was thrown from his

horse and choked to
death by the reins?

- And Shelton, strangled by
the pulley rope as he fell

from his hayloft.

- And Henry Craig,
throttled by his fishnet.

- And tonight his son Bill
choked to death by the weeds.

- What's Bill Craig
to do with it?

He wasn't even at the hanging.

- Have you forgotten Douglas'
vow that he'd return to

strangle all of his hangmen
and their descendants

for generations to come.

- He's become a scourge,
sparing none of our men.

- Nonsense, nonsense I say!

You're a bunch of
superstitious old women,

the rope remains where it is.


[frogs croaking]

- A sign from heaven.

- Nonsense, the rope
was old, rotten.

It just fell down.

- It was a sign from heaven,

a sign for you to
make the sacrifice.

- [Christina] And lift the curse

- And save the others,
yes Joseph heed it,

give yourself willingly into
the hands of the Strangler

and his curse will
be broken forever.

- You must be insane
women, sacrifice!

Where did you get
that silly idea?

- Jenkins told me before
the Strangler got him,

he said only the sacrifice
of one of you or your kin

could break the curse.

Jenkins was a wise man, he
knew a lot about these things.

- Then why didn't he
make the sacrifice?

- He thought about it
but he waited too long.

- Sacrifice, ridiculous.

I'm only 70, that's
not old for a man.

I've plans for the future,
my grandchild will come,

take over the ferry and
I'll have time to do what I

always wanted, plant sugarcane.

- Oh you're all like that.

[metal clanks]

- Only noble men are
willing to give their lives

to save others,
you're all small,

that's why the curse
will never be lifted.

Good night Joseph!

[melancholy music]

[metal clangs]

[haunting music]

[frogs croaking]

[haunting music]

[intense music]

- Hello.

- [Douglas] Yes Joseph.


- Douglas!

Have you, have you
risen from the dead?

[frantic music]

What are you going to do?

Frighten me?

I know its just a trick
of my imagination.

But how is it I can see you?

Where do you come from?

- [Douglas] From my
grave in the swamp.

Whenever the heart or
soul of a cursed one

or filled with anguish
to the brim I appear.

Tonight it is your
soul that calls.

- You can't be there!

You're not real!

- [Douglas] Your guilty
conscious is real,

the rope you hanged
me with is real.

[intense music]


[splashing water]

[eerie music]

[birds chirping]

- Poor old Joseph
didn't leave much.

- No.

- There were two
pairs of trousers.

- Describe them.

- One dark, good shape.

One grey, worn I'd say.

- Grey, thread bare, go on.

- One, two, three, four,
there's six shirts,

that's all that's here.

- Six shirts.

You're very obliging Jeffers
to help me with this inventory.

- Thank you Christian, I'm
always glad to lend a hand.

- I've been thinking for some
time of getting you set with

something more solid, more
substantial then just odd job.

Now we have something for you.

- Me?

Oh I sure thank you Christian
for thinking about me.

- I was talking to the Council
this morning about you,

they put up quite an argument
but finally they gave in.

- They know whose
boss, don't worry.

- Yes Jeffers now
you're the new ferryman.

- Oh no, not for
a million dollars.

- What?

- Nothing could make me
spend even one night here.

- Well you're a coward.

- I don't care what
you say, I am afraid!

But so are all the others.

- Why Anna's influenced you,

you ought to be
ashamed of yourself.

- Well I can think for myself,
I have my own theories.

Where, for instance,
is the rope we

found around Joseph's neck?

It was by the body when
we brought him into

the village square,
then it was gone.

Things are not natural.

- Oh somebody took it maybe,

maybe one of the
children to play with it!

- Or the Strangler.

- Oh you make me sick, lets
go on to the inventory.


- Oh look here's some
letters and papers.

- Well here put 'em in here,
I'll look at 'em later.

Now how about shoes and boots?

- Well.

Christian, look!

Someone on the opposite shore.

[soft music]

- Here, do you know her?

- Never saw her before.

[soft music]

- Hello Mr Sanders.

- Why Maria.

- That's right.

- Here let me take your bag.

Well you were such
a little girl,

I'd forgotten all about you.

It must be 10 years
ago that you were here.

- Where's Grandfather?

- Oh come in and sit down.

- What's wrong?

Has something happened to him?

- Well Maria he wasn't young
anymore, he was past 70.

- Is he dead?

- [Christian] Yes.

- When did it happen?


- He had a very
easy death Maria,

just slipped over
into a better world.

We buried him three days ago.

It was a nice funeral, all
the villagers were there to

say goodbye.

Oh I know how you
must feel Maria,

why don't you come and stay
at my house for a few days.

At least until
everything is alright.

- You're very kind Mr Sanders.

- I hope you won't
find the bed too hard,

when Chris left home he
was just the age when boys

think they can become strong
only by denying themselves

every comfort.

- I'm not spoiled.

- Are you sure you're doing
the right thing Maria?

- I think so.

- But Maria running the
ferry is awfully hard work

and not for a woman.

- I'm only doing what I think
Grandfather would have wanted

and Mr Jeffers and Mr Sanders
thought it was a good idea.

Said I'd have more customers
then I could handle.

You see being all
alone, work in the city,

well it isn't much fun and as
far as the work being hard,

I can do it, I'm strong.

- But you'll still be
living alone and so far out.

- I know but it won't be the
same 'cause it'll be mine.

I'm not afraid.

- No young people never are.

But I'm afraid.

- Why, of what?

Everyone seems so nice.

- Oh you'll think I'm just
a superstitious old woman

but the swamp, the things
have happened out there

that are not natural.

- I don't believe
in the supernatural.

- But the danger is real.

Oh don't think I'm trying
to give you bad dreams

or that I'm trying to
frighten you away, I'm not.

I like you dear but I just
couldn't bare to see you

go out there without
giving you a warning dear.

- You're very nice Mrs
Sanders, thank you so much.

- Well I guess I'd better
be going downstairs,

Mr Sanders will be through
with his meeting now.

Goodnight Maria, sleep
well under our roof dear.

- Thank you, goodnight.

- Well Christian I don't
see any harm has been done,

the girl wants to
be our new ferryman.

The only danger I can
see is in loneliness.

- It isn't a question of danger,
I didn't tell her the whole

truth about the death of her
Grandfather because I wanted

to soften the shock.

All I ask of you and your
women is to keep quiet.

I'll tell her the truth
when the time comes.

- I think you did
right Christian,

it wouldn't have made
her feel any better.

- Well I guess that's
all I wanted to say.

- Well goodnight Christian.

- Goodnight Joe.

- Goodnight Christian.

- Goodnight Tom.

- I'd like to stay a
minute if its alright.

- Yeah.

- [Pete] Christian I'm sure
the Strangler took him.

- [Christian] Took what to who?

[haunting music]

- I can't eat, I can't sleep.

I just wait for the Strangler
to get us like he got Joseph.

- Now that is just nonsense,
Joseph Hart committed suicide,

I found proof among his papers.

Here read this.

- A confession, that he
killed Berkeley in a quarrel.

And gave wrong testimony.

"And cowardly enough I
accused ferrymen Douglas,

"but believe me neighbors
and friends I haven't

"had one peaceful hour since."

Christian, that means that
we, we hanged an innocent man.

- We are guilty of
acting too hastily,

but what's done is done.

And all our regrets won't bring
a hanged man back to life.

- But he is back!

He walks among us and
kills us, one by one.

[eerie music]

[frogs croaking]

[eerie music]

- Now you can do no harm,

in this sacred place
your power is broken.

[melancholy music]


Dear Father, the little
girl in our home,

keep her safe from all harm.

- Can't the village afford
to have it's own doctor

instead of bothering
you every time?


- They're too sturdy, they
simply won't get sick.

A doctor would starve here.

- Only from time to time
they get their necks broken,

don't they Doc?

- Very true my boy,

accidents and occasionally
a child birth,

the only thing they
ever need me for.

Goodbye Maria.

- Goodbye Doctor.

- Hurry George, pick up
the bags, come along.

- Bye.

[sweet music]


- Hey you!

Can't you signal when
you want to get across?!

- Well don't get excited,
I'm not trying to steal it.

[sweet music]

Just sit down,
I'll pull it over.

- It's my boat, I get
paid for doing it.

- You're independent
aren't you Maria?

Mother wrote me about you.

- Your mother?

- Martina Sanders, I'm
Christian Sanders Junior.

- Alright Junior just sit
down and don't rock the boat.

- Well don't call me
Junior, I don't like it.

Call me Chris.

- Alright Chris.

[sweet music]

- Same smell of swamp
water, I missed it.

I've been pretty homesick
for the last three years.

- You've come home to stay?

- Yep, gonna be a
farmer like my Dad.

- Your father's a very
important man here.

- Sure.

- Sometimes I'm afraid
of him, he's so stern,

so sure of himself.

- Well you don't know
him, he's soft as butter,

I can wrap him around
my little finger.

Met any of the boys
around here yet?

- A few.

- Guess they're hanging
around here all the time huh?

- Oh no they're much too nice.

- Oh bashful, well that's good.

That's very good.

I'll be seeing yah.

- You know Chris I worry
every moment when you're home,

I long to see you dear but
why did you have to come home?


- Well I love it here more
than anyplace in the world.

I belong here.

- Chris' right, it'll stop all
the stupid rumors and gossip.

- Don't worry Mother.

I believe in what
you yourself taught,

we're in the hands
of the almighty and
nothing can harm us.

- Chris, you're not going out,

it's your first evening at home.

- I'm just going out
with some of the fellas.

- [Christian] Well don't
stay out too late son.

- Alright Dad.

- A fine boy your
son Mrs Sanders,

the girls will be crazy about
him at the Halloween dance.

- Say, how'd you like to go
to Halloween dance with me?

- Oh that will be
a busy day for me.

- Every year I win
all the prizes,

I'm the best dancer around here.

- I don't doubt it,
I'm sure I'd enjoy it

but who would bring
all the guests across?

- That's crazy, such a pretty
girl worrying about her job.

Say you should marry,
have a nice home.

- I'm happy as I am.

- Maybe so but you
need protection.

You think I'm kiddin', well
listen I'll tell you what

nobody else in the
village has dared tell you

because they're afraid
to let you in on a secret

of the Vilalge.

Yep the big secret,
of a Strangler,

who roams around
and kills people.

- Alright George you tell
me your story another time.

- No I'll tell you right now.

You are in danger believe me.

- I can see that.

- What's the matter with yah?

Run away from me eh?

[fist smacks]

I guess I'll a little
pickled, I'm sorry.

- That's alright.

- You better go home
and sleep it off.

- Thank you Chris.

- Next time he gets
fresh push him overboard.

- I will, goodnight.

- Now you go in first
and lock the door.

[sweet music]

- Goodnight Chris.

- Maria.

- Yes?

- Is it alright if I
stop around now and then?

Just to see if
everything's alright.

- You'll find me right here,
I can't very well get away.

- Alright I'll see
you tomorrow then.

- Goodnight Chris.

[sweet music]

[intense music]

- [Marina] Are you
still awake Chris?

- Yes Mom, come on in.

- I saw Mrs Ryan today Chris,
she's peeved because you

haven't called on Margaret
once although you've been

home almost a month.

It's really not polite.

- Margaret bores me.

- I thought you liked
her, you two were.

- I've outgrown that.

- Oh Chris, look at
these dirty shoes,

you've been in the swamp again.

I plead with you day in and
day out and you won't listen.

Death waits behind
every bush and tree.

- No Mother, somebody
very beautiful and lovely.

- Maria?

Have you seen her often?

- Yes I didn't like the
idea of her being out there

in the swamps alone.

- She's a very courageous girl.

- And sweet.

- Are you in love
with her Chris?


- Very much.

- Oh Chris, keeping a
secret from your mother,

what kind of a son are you?

Did you tell her?

- No.

- Why not?

- Well I just can't seem
to get up the courage.

- Now that's a new
side to your character.

- Well honest Mom it isn't
as simple as you think,

I just can't seem to
get the right chance.

And then there are times I
think she might turn me down.

- Why should she?

You're a handsome boy, come
from a good family and well,

if I were a young girl I'd be
waiting for you to speak up

- Well I hope she is.

So how did Dad pop the question?

- Well that was different,
you see we'd known each other

since childhood and we'd
always taken it for granted

that we'd marry each other.

- Well that is different.

- Let your heart tell when
the right moment comes Chris,

the fewer words the
better then dear.


- There, now you
won't fall through.

Penny for your thoughts.

- The swamp makes me think
of fairy tales, so lovely.

Any minute you expect beautiful
old legends to come to life.

- Well at least
somebody doesn't see

evil spirits running around.

- You know I almost
did last night.

- Why?

- In the middle of the
night I heard the signal,

I ran down and pulled
across to the other side.

No one was there so I called out

and there wasn't any answer.

So I started back.

- And?

- Well I had the strangest
feeling that someone was

standing behind me.

- Look Maria you just
can't stay out here at

night any longer, I won't.

- Chris, what do you think
I found this morning?

A little dead bird lying
near the plow shed,

in the night it must
have flown right into it.

- Well it's an explanation
but believe me Maria

you can't stay out here
at night any longer.

You've got to give up
this ferry business.

- I like my job Chris,
what else could I do?

- Marry me?

I love you Maria.

- Oh Chris.

- I love you very much.

[romantic music]


- Christian the
Strangler almost got me,

I saw him, I heard his voice.

- Now come come come
come, don't be a fool,

pull yourself together!

What happened?

- I was coming home
through the swamp,

suddenly I saw a shadow
and started running.

I stumbled on a tree root
and clammy wet fingers

grabbed me by the throat,
I heard his devilish laugh

and then he was gone!

I'll never forget it
as long as I live.


- When you fell
you got caught in

a few wet twigs that's all.

Can't you reason anything out?

- Oh maybe I am crazy, but I
just can't stand it any longer,

I feel the rope hanging over us.

You're so sure of yourself,
you know everything don't you?

But let me tell you Christian,
there's only one way out

for all of us, sacrifice!

- Sacrifice?

- One of us must give himself
voluntarily into the hands

of the Strangler
to break the curse.

- You're willing to try
anything aren't you?

- Christian let me talk to
you as one who admires you,

thinks highly of you.

- Come to the point.

- You're rich and respected,
you've accomplished

everything that men
can expect of life.

- And?

- The village would
always remember you,

would treasure your memory if.

- If?

- If you could bring yourself
to make that sacrifice.

- So you can sleep at night?

- Yes.

- Wouldn't it be more logical
to save the greatest success

in town, me, as you so
nicely said and sacrifice the

greatest fool, you Jeffers,
wouldn't that be more logical?

If one of us has to jump in
the swamp it's going to be you

and if the Strangler doesn't
get you then pneumonia will!

Now get out, go on, get out!

Get out you crack pot!

All this swamp breeds
more rumor then mosquito.

I'm going to call a
village council together

and do something
about it and at once.

We'll dry it up and
build a road across it.

- But you haven't any money.

The County turned down
your application for funds.

- Well I'll find a way,

I'll use the church
funds to begin with.

- Christian, you won't dare.

That money is pledged to
build a church of our own,

these poor people saved
it penny by penny.

- Well they'll see the
importance of my plan.

- Nothing is more important in
any community then a church.

Christian, is it possible that
you too deep in your heart

are afraid of the swamp?

- That's the most ridiculous
statement I ever heard.

I'm going over to see Cob
and I'll be late for dinner.

[romantic music]

- I've got it all planned.

Tomorrow night you
put on your best dress

and I'll come out and get yah.

We'll go over and see Mom
and Dad and when we get their

blessings we can announce
the engagement at the

Halloween party.

- But what about the ferry?

- Forget about the ferry.

- How could I Chris?

It's been too much like my life,

going back and forth
from shore to shore.

Never resting, never stopping.

And I'll never forget that
it brought us together.

Being here with you, looking
into your eyes, for the first

time in my life I know
what it means to be home.

- Maria.

- Chris.

[romantic music]

[intense music]

- [Christian] Jeffers!

- Don't try to stop us,
we've made up our minds!

- I wasn't talkin' to you!

- She's right, we don't
want to spend another hour

in this cursed village,
we're leaving for good.

- Oh you coward.

- Get out of my way, come on!

[wheels clanking]

- Where's old Jeffers goin?

- Oh he's running
away from the curse.

- Poor man scares
as easy as a rabbit.

- Ugh.

Sit down Son, you're home
early tonight for a change.

I haven't seen very much
of you the last few days.

- Well I guess you know
where I've been spending

most of my time.

- Yes I think I do, as a
matter of fact it's had me

a little worried.

- Well you can forget it,
we're getting married.

I'm bringing Maria over
tomorrow night to meet

her new mother and father.

- I wish I could give you
my blessing Son but I can't.

Her grandfather Joseph
Hart is a murderer.

- What?

- He killed Berkeley.

- Well you can't mean it.

- Every word of it, I found
his confession after he

committed suicide.

- Suicide, well does
Maria know this?

- [Christian] No I
didn't tell her about it.

- Well I don't see why
Maria should suffer for

a crime her
grandfather committed.

She's as innocent as I am.

Or as guilty.

- [Christian] Oh now
don't get excited son.

- Why not?

There's a murderer in my family.

- Chris!

- You helped in the mobbing
and hanging of Douglas,

for a crime somebody
else had committed.

- We had the word of Joseph
Hart that Douglas did it,

Joseph alone bares
all the guilt.

- Everybody shares in the
guilt of that hanging,

including you and me.

- Nonsense, you
weren't even there.

- The sight of Maria fills
your righteous heart with

hard because she's
kin of a bad man,

then that same hard
should shake you

every time you look at me
because you're no different

then Joseph Hart!

- Chris you've said enough!

Don't bring that
girl in this house.

- Then I won't be here tomorrow
night either, goodnight.

[sweet music]



[foreboding music]

- Chris!

[intense music]

[door slams]

- Strangler!

- What is it Chris?

- I saw his face.

- Whose face?

- The face of the
man they hanged.

Took the short cut.

- Yes darling and
ran into deer trap.

- It was the Strangler.

- Don't speak, don't be afraid.

Close your eyes and I'll
hurry for Dr McDaniel.

I'll be right back.

[frantic music]

[foreboding music]

- [Douglas] Chris is doomed,
a doctor cannot help.

He will die.

Once this boat was mine.

- I know now.

What are you going to do?

- [Douglas] Make sure he dies.

- Don't don't.

[foreboding music]

[frantic music]

He's gone!

- He shall not escape.

[foreboding music]

- [Maria] Chris!





[frantic music]



- Maria.

- Chris!

- Maria.

- Is Christian going to
try and talk the people out

of their church fund in
his Halloween speech?

He can't do it can he Martina?

- He certainly will try.

- We won't let him.

- I want a roof over
my head when I pray.

[frogs croaking]

- Tonight I shall tell you
of my plan to enrich our

farmland by draining the swamp.

Naturally a project
like this costs money,

since our village isn't
wealthy each of us will

have to make sacrifices.

- Is Chris here?

- You should know better
then I where Chris is,

bursting into this house.

- The Strangler's after Chris.

- [Christian] What
are you saying?

- The Strangler caught
him in a deer trap!

- Is he dead?

- He was almost dead
when I found him.

- Where is he?

- I don't know, I was running
for the doctor when the

Strangler stopped me.

- Well never mind the
Strangler, where is Chris?

- I took him to the hut
and then he was gone.

Oh if he's in the
swamp the Strangler.

- Tell Mrs Sanders,
tell the others,

tell them to start a search!

I'll go ahead, no
whoever finds Chris first

will take him across to the
doctor, do you understand?

- Yes!
- Alright!

- [Douglas] Let the old
run, I'll get him too!

Don't move, stay
here and tell no one.

[frantic music]

There is no help for him.

No matter where you
go I'll stop you.

I'll deafen their ears to you.

Run run you little fool!

Run til your heart bursts.

- You shall not touch
him as long as I live.

[melancholy music]

- [Christian] Chris!



[haunting music]


Oh Chris!

Chris, Chris!

Oh you'll be alright my son,
I'll get you to the doctor.

[frantic music]

[eerie music]

[frantic music]

- Run for the old chapel,
he can't follow there!

The church!

[frantic music]

[foreboding music]

- My darling, my darling.

- The Strangler.

- We're safe here in the chapel.

- [Douglas] There is
no escape, he will die.

- I'll wake the village,
they'll bring help,

we must destroy him.

- He's dying, he's dying.

- [Douglas] He's dying.

[foreboding music]

- He will not die,
no no, he cannot die.

- [Douglas] Nothing
can save him.

- I can save him.

[melancholy music]

- [Christian] Don't Maria,
don't cross the threshold.

We've safer on the
inside, don't cross.

[melancholy music]

- Your cruel hands shall
not touch him anymore.

I give myself willingly
into your hands, take me.

[intense music]

Give up the fight, leave the
vengeance to the almighty,

make peace with him.

Make peace with him,
leave the living alone.

[intense music]

[soft music]

- Maria I can breathe again.

- He's gone Chris,
he's gone forever.

[triumphant music]