Cast & Crew
Middle-aged Raymond Garth, an American, is married to possessive and domineering Ellen, the head of an English textile firm, who has been crippled in an automobile accident. She also intimidates her male secretary, Dick Corbett, and blackmails him because of his record of forging checks. Raymond becomes more dissatisfied with his wife when he takes an interest in Ellen's niece, Alice, an art student who has returned from Paris. Together, Dick and Raymond devise a plot to get rid of Ellen. Raymond murders Ellen by drowning her in a bathtub, and Dick hires an actress to impersonate Ellen during a trip to Italy. Ellen's housekeeper, Christine, who has always been antagonistic toward Raymond, is suspicious when she receives a postcard of the catacombs, for she knows that Ellen has claustrophobia and would be unlikely to go there. Raymond then receives a fake telegram announcing Ellen's death in an automobile accident. Christine remains suspicious when Alice and Raymond obtain control of the entire estate with the stipulation that Raymond live in Ellen's house for the rest of his life. One night, he hears what seems to be Ellen's footsteps, and he sees that her bed has been slept in. He runs for Dick, and together they search Ellen's gravesite and find it empty. Back in the house, Raymond enters the bedroom and sees Ellen's body on the bed. As she rises and moves toward him, he falls out of a window to his death. As Alice and Dick replace the body in the grave, the police, summoned by Christine, arrive to investigate.
The Woman Who Wouldn't Die
If the storyline has a somewhat Hitchcockian feel, that's because the source novel was originally considered as the basis for an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. It was ultimately rejected, but Hitchcock associate Gordon Hessler took a fancy to it and decided to turn it into his first film as director. Hessler had been under contract to Hitchcock for years, serving as associate producer and then producer on dozens of Hitchcock's TV shows, so he had picked up some ideas on how to mount suspense. He went on to a 25-year directing career.
He was also savvy enough to hire a fine screenwriter for the project. Daniel Mainwaring had been one of the most important writers of film noir, having penned the novel and screenplay for Out of the Past (1947), and credited with the story or screenplay for such other noirs as The Big Steal (1949), The Tall Target (1951), Roadblock (1951), and Baby Face Nelson (1957). He also wrote Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956).
Produced in England and released in America through Warner Brothers, The Woman Who Wouldn't Die drew fine reviews ("taut script and direction," said Variety) and satisfied audiences with its twisty plot turns.
Gary Merrill, who had also appeared in several episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents and so knew Hessler well, later wrote of this period of his career that he enjoyed doing international productions simply because they afforded him the chance to travel.
By Jeremy Arnold
The Woman Who Wouldn't Die
Released in Great Britain in 1966 as Catacombs; running time: 90 min.