Thursday, March 20, 2003


Vincente Minnelli directed this fairly big-budget MGM film noir which one Internet critic dubbed "glossy noir." It's not just the high-class treatment that does it in, but the length--at a full two hours, it can't sustain the tense mood that a movie which borrows from GASLIGHT, SUSPICION, LAURA, and REBECCA needs to have. The long opening section sets a misleadingly light tone that throws off the balance of the whole thing. Katharine Hepburn is the old-maidish daughter of a famous scientist (Edmund Gwenn). She's a bit long in the tooth to be playing a coy lass who still lives with her father and is courted by drab suitors (and this same problem crops up a few years later with Hepburn in THE RAINMAKER). A rich industrialist (Robert Taylor) visits Gwenn and falls for Hepburn. After they marry, little signs crop up that he is not exactly what he seems to be. The messy plotline suggests, among other things, that Taylor may have done some embezelling and killed his ne'er do well brother. Hepburn becomes fascinated with the dead brother (as Dana Andrews does with the dead LAURA) and begins to fear her husband. Marjorie Main has a thankless role as a maid in the first half of the movie. Robert Mitchum pops up later as a mysterious stranger (is he friend or is he foe?). The film climaxes in a fairly exciting horse chase (unlike the average noir, it's set not in the city but out in the wide-open country), but by then, it has worn out its welcome. This is a case where a smaller budget and a scrappy B-film director might have improved the movie.

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