Malombra (1942)

This utterly gorgeous Gothic melodrama would be widely hailed as a masterpiece, had it not been made in Italy during the Mussolini regime. A gross injustice, as Malombra - unlike Piccolo Mondo Antico, Mario Soldati's earlier film of an Antonio Fogazzaro novel - contains not one moment of triumphalist flag-waving or Fascist family values. Oddly akin to Rebecca in its atmosphere of death-haunted romance and voluptuous doom, it reaches a peak of visual refinement of which Hitchcock could only dream.

Its star is Isa Miranda (famous, and not without reason, as Italy's answer to Garbo and Dietrich) playing a headstrong but unstable young noblewoman, confined by her uncle to a gloomy villa on the shores of Lake Como. A yellowed and crumbling letter, found in an old spinet, convinces her that she is the reincarnation of her uncle's first wife - another troubled beauty who died a virtual prisoner after being caught in a forbidden love affair. When a handsome young writer (Andrea Checchi) comes to stay, Miranda decides that HE is the reincarnation of the dead woman's lover. Gradually, she lures him into her web of sex and revenge... (IMDB david melville)

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