Mark Wilson (David McCallum) has not been to visit his mother for quite some time. In fact, since he has been home for a visit, he has remarried, and as our movie begins, he is bringing his wife to meet his mother for the first time. How rude!
But Mark has a rationalization: the last time he was in his mother’s home, his first wife died a violent death there, ostensibly of an accident caused by her heavy drinking. And on some level, Mark knows his dead wife is waiting in that house, even though he fights very hard against his mother’s (and his new wife’s) insistence that the ghost lingers there.
Why was the first Mrs. Wilson such a drunkard, and was her death even accidental? How did the new Mrs. Wilson happen to choose her predecessor’s old music box out of an antique store, and why does she know details about the night Mark’s first wife died? And just why is Mark’s best friend (James T. Callahan) looking more and more like his worst enemy?
Like all the best ghost stories, this one is left slightly ambiguous for those who don’t Want To Believe, but the rest of us know that the implied ectoplasm is actually flowing like snot here. She Waits is a great example of a simple, effective ghost story which results from the combination of nothing more than a dark house and acting. Remember acting? TV stars used to do it all the time back in the day. The whole cast is great, especially Dorothy McGuire as Mark’s mother, who is sure his first wife haunts her house, and Beulah Bondi as her superstitious servant/companion.
But it is Patty Duke that makes this movie so memorable. She carries the whole thing with her performance as a haunted, possibly possessed woman. By the way, we never even see a ghost in this film! All we see are Duke’s reactions to it. Her turn as the second Mrs. Wilson is still disturbing as hell forty years later, in jaded 2012, to someone like me who rarely gets scared of movies anymore. Now that’s acting.