Ghost stories come in many forms. The idea of the spirits of the dead visiting us holds a unique fascination for us. Proof of life after death, validation of religious beliefs, perhaps a glimpse into what makes a human a human, setting us apart from the other animals of the world... well, that and our thumbs. Whatever it is that makes the idea of ghosts interesting to so many people is what gives ghost stories their flavor. Some tales are of humans who died suddenly, their spirits not ready to depart the Earth just yet. Others are fables of revenge, a wrong that can never be righted but makes the soul linger. Or, in some cases, it’s that the spirit in question just wants to hang around and see what the living are up to. This seems to be the case in the 1960 British film The House in Marsh Road.
The House in Marsh Road is the story of Jean and David Linton (Patricia Dainton and Tony Wright). They are a couple on the ragged edge of bankruptcy, conning their way from one rented room to the next. David fancies himself a novelist, but only just manages to eke out a bit of money writing reviews. Jean works odd jobs to bring in the extra cash they need to survive, but they are always living just ahead of the debt collector. Though she loves David and encourages him to write, Jean is also disgusted by David's heavy drinking. In fact, if he's not an alcoholic, it is only because he doesn't have the money to get the job done right. Meaning when the couple does get ahead, it isn't long before he's started drinking away any progress they've made.
Despite his shortcomings, Jean stays with David through thick and thin. Finally, they catch a break. Jean has an aunt whom she'd barely ever heard of. She decides to write the woman to see how she's doing and possibly pay her a visit. The letter does not find the aunt, but rather her solicitor. It seems the aunt had passed away recently and the letter came at just the right time as the solicitor was looking for an heir to the woman's estate.
Jean inherits a sum of money and the woman's large house, located in a village outside of London on Marsh Road. When David and Jean pay a visit to the home, Jean finds it welcoming and wants to live there. She tells David it is perfect for them. They won't have to worry about rent and he can have the time and space he needs to write his novel.
David is not easily swayed by these arguments but has little say in the matter because, though they are married, Jean is the sole owner of the house and the money left to her by her aunt. So David is forced to go along with her wishes.
Jean employs Mrs. Morris, her aunt's former housekeeper, to continue helping around the place and Jean and David settle into a routine. They notice a few peculiar things happening in the house, furniture moving, doors closing on their own and the like. Mrs. Morris explains that these are not uncommon occurrences and attributes them to the ghost of the house, Patrick. Mrs. Morris seems quite fond of Patrick and Jean is fascinated by the idea of a friendly spirit in her new home. David, despite being a novelist, has very little imagination and even less patience for the idea of a ghost. He quickly dismisses it. Because of her fondness for the home and her generally good nature, it quickly becomes apparent that Patrick has taken a liking to Jean while he ignores David.
David, because he apparently doesn't have enough free time on his hands, decides to hire a woman to type up his handwritten pages for his novel. He hires Ms. Stockley (Sandra Dorne) a pretty local woman with a bit of a reputation. Soon enough, David is having an affair with his new typist.
To make matters worse, David finds out that a local developer thinks the property is very valuable and is willing to make David and Jean an attractive offer to purchase the home. While David is all for it, Jean refuses. She likes the home and knows that David will just drink away any money they receive. This angers David, but there is little he can do. Or so he thinks. The lovely Ms. Stockley has other ideas. She suggests that David 'man-up' and take what he wants by arranging for his wife to have an accident.
At first, it appears that Jean will not be long for this Earth, but Patrick the ghost likes her and he may foil David's plans. But can a ghost really stop a murder?
The House in Marsh Road is a low-budget British ghost story/thriller from 1960. Based on a novel of the same name by Laurence Meynell, the screenplay was written and produced by Maurice J. Wilson with Montgomery Tully as the director.
Coming in with a running time of only 70 or so minutes, the story is fairly short and to the point for a feature film. However, the characters are fairly well developed, and one quickly becomes sympathetic to Jean and her string of poor life choices that brought her to David. The ghost element in the film is present, but not as heavily used as might be expected from a true ghost story. The film also does not play the ghost for scares. Patrick is more like a mischievous guardian angel than a lost soul haunting a manor. In fact, one of the most clever elements of the film is the imaginative ways that Patrick thwarts David's murderous schemes.
So if you're looking for a classic black and white thriller, with enough supernatural shenanigans to make it count as a ghost story, then check out The House in Marsh Road. It's not the best thriller or the best ghost story, but it's a fun little film that will entertain and surprise you.