Dragonwyck is not a horror film, despite the awesome name and the Vincent Price-ness. It is a Gothic romance in the tradition of Rebecca but with a much less happy ending. Recommended to me by my parents (!), Dragonwyck stars a very young, handsome, tall Vincent Price as Nicholas Van Ryn, a 19th century wealthy American land owner. Van Ryn is a Patroon, the American equivalent of a feudal lord. I didn't know such things ever existed, but they did. Gene Tierney plays the young, naive Miranda Wells, a distant relation of Van Ryn. When Van Ryn writes her family and offers to hire her as a Governess for his young daughter, Miranda jumps at the chance to escape her provincial existence.
Miranda is beautiful and innocent, the complete opposite of Van Ryn's wife. He falls in love with his young charge, and she with him. The only thing left to do is murder the wife and marry the Governess, which happens in short order. Miranda knows nothing of the murder part. She only knows that she loves Van Ryn, despite some serious warnings from local villagers and the help about him and Dragonwyck. Not only is the house haunted (a strange little subplot that really goes nowhere) but Van Ryn is haunted too. When their child, a son, dies, Van Ryn goes crazy ala Henry VIII.
Well, he doesn't as much go crazy as he becomes a raving drug addict. It is up to the local Doctor to save Miranda from the out of control Patroon.
From what I understand this was one of Vincent Price's first "leading man" roles. He is amazing. Handsome, dangerous, brooding: perfect for Van Ryn. You could see why Miranda would fall in love with him, and despite all of his terrible deeds, you feel sorry for him in the end. Dragonwyck is a good Gothic romance with just enough atmosphere to keep a horror fan interested.
Gene Tierney and Vincent Price made four films together. Dragonwyck, Laura, Hudson's Bay, and one of the creepiest films I have ever seen, Leave her to Heaven. Gene Tierney gives an incredible performance in Leave her to Heaven. Price has a small role in the film, but as usual he is top notch. If you find yourself with nothing to do on a dark and stormy night may I suggest a Gene Tierney/Vincent Price movie marathon? I would substitute The Ghost and Mrs. Muir for Hudson's Bay. It doesn't have Price in it, but Rex Harrison's ghost is a sight to behold!