Wolfe Kristan (Wilfrid Lawson) is the lighthouse keeper of Westerrode Lighthouse, situated on a small island off the coast of Northern Germany. Kristan’s personality is that of an intimidating and coarse man. Having chased off his last assistant, the harbor master (Morland Graham) needs to find a replacement. In the meantime he asks Eric Albers (Charles Rolfe) to fill in for a few days. Overhearing the conversation is a British Spy, Anthony Hale (Michael Rennie). Hale attacks Albers and takes his place so he can hide out from the police while awaiting his contact.
Around the same time, Marie Durand (Movita) arrives. Marie is an escapee from a concentration camp and had stowed away on a truck. Marie is spotted and chased by the Gestapo. In desperation she jumps into the ocean to try to get away. She is picked up, half drowned, by Kristan, who is heading back to the lighthouse. Kristan is a bit off his rocker and partly believes she is his dead wife Marthe. The story around town is that Marthe drowned 16 years ago and Kristan still mourns her death. Kristan also lost his right hand in an accident and now has a hook for a replacement. The two incidents have made Kristan’s hold on reality, tentative.
When Hale gets to the lighthouse, Marie tells him she is Kristan’s niece. Everyone at the lighthouse has secrets. Hale is trying to get out of the country with a packet of photos of a secret German facility. He is awaiting a boat from Holland that will get him to allied territory. Marie is trying to evade being recaptured and sent back to the concentration camp, and Kristan’s secrets are hidden deep in his subconscious. His obsession with Marie is getting stronger as his sanity wanes. Hale and Marie find that they need to be more afraid of Kristan than of the Gestapo.
“Tower of Terror” was released in 1941 and was directed by Lawrence Huntington. It is a British wartime thriller melodrama.
Although the critics didn’t care for it, I actually enjoyed it. Even though the film mostly took place in a claustrophobic lighthouse and the budget wasn’t all that big, those two aspects that would normally be drawbacks actually added to the thrill of the film. It was also rather fast-paced and the acting good. The roaring sea added dimension to the eeriness of the film. The tension built up nicely and the ending was satisfying.
One of the main incongruities of the film is that everyone, even the Germans, speak with British accents. There appears to have been no attempt to either make the characters sound German or make the town look like Germany.