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American publisher Lewis Venable travels from New York to Venice in hopes of acquiring the publishing rights to the 1800s love letters of noted poet Jeffrey Ashston to the beautiful Juliana Bordereau. Learning from Charles Russell, a struggling poet, that Juliana is still alive at the age of 105, Lewis arranges to meet with her, claiming that he is a wealthy writer named William Burton. Needing money, the blind Juliana allows Lewis to rent rooms in the house, despite the objections of her mentally disturbed great-niece Tina. While Lewis is in town meeting with Father Rinaldo, the parish priest, Tina searches his rooms, finding a inscribed photograph of Kathleen, his girl friend, as well as a copy of Ashston's poems. After six weeks of fruitless searching for the love letters, Lewis is called into Juliana's room, where the old woman offers to sell him a miniature painting of Ashston for a thousand pounds. That same night, he finds a radiant Tina playing the piano in a deserted portion of the house, and discovers that she believes she is Juliana and that he is Ashston. Later, Lewis questions Father Rinaldo about Tina's schizophrenia, and the priest asks him to leave the Bordereau home before a tragedy ensues. Juliana tells Lewis that she fears for her life, for when Tina thinks she is Juliana, she thinks that Juliana is Rosa, a hated maid from the past. Juliana further explains that Tina's schizophrenia is based on her obsession with Ashston's love letters, and begs Lewis to regain the letters for her. He tries to get the letters, but a transformed Tina obtains them first, then, as Juliana, dances with Lewis in the courtyard. A prowler then jumps out of Juliana's window, and Lewis gives chase, but the man escapes. Turning back into herself, Tina accuses Lewis of being the prowler, but the weak Juliana clears him of the false accusation. Later, Father Rinaldo apologizes to Lewis for thinking he was a "scoundrel," and tells him that if Tina could find love in the present, then she might escape her obsession with the past. Lewis and Tina then go out to dinner, followed closely by Charles, who, having failed in an attempt to blackmail Lewis, unsuccessfully tries to leave a note at their table, telling Tina who Lewis really is. On their way home, Tina questions Lewis about his relationship with Kathleen, and he tells her that they were never really in love. Later, Tina tells him that an "American publisher" had sought the letters, but she denied their existence, feeling they belonged only to Juliana. Despite his new love for Tina, Lewis uncovers the letters and is about to leave on the Orient Express when he hears Juliana scream. He rushes to her room to see the possessed Tina threatening her about the missing letters, who then admits she killed Ashston after he ended their affair and buried him in the garden. When Lewis calls out her name and shows her the letters, Tina collapses. Lewis then carries her out of Juliana's room, leaving the letters behind on the floor. Juliana knocks over a candle while trying to pick up the letters, setting her room on fire. Lewis rescues Juliana, but the letters are lost in the flames. With the house in blazes, Juliana dies in the courtyard, and Tina is freed from her schizophrenia state and rushes into the arms of Lewis.