Saturday, September 30, 2006


After making several comedies for RKO, Kyser went up in the movie world for this one, made at MGM, but unfortunately, it's not quite as funny as his previous films (and despite its title, it has little to do with swing). This is the only one of Kyser's vehicles in which he doesn't play himself, although his character, a musician named Lowell Blackford, isn't terribly far removed from the familiar Kyser persona. When we first see Blackford, he's trying to sell his ambitious "symphonetta" to New Swing Music Publishers. Although swing singer Marilyn Maxwell takes a liking to him, he doesn't have much luck selling his music until Maxwell's boyfriend, boxing promoter William Gargan, discovers that Kyser has the "evil eye," a way of squinching his eye at someone that causes him to lose consciousness. Gargan plots to have Kyser use his talent to ensure that his loser client (Nat Pendleton) wins an important match. Maxwell rearranges Kyser's tone poem in swing time and he becomes a big success (backed, of course, by the Kyser band). Kyser falls for her (and eventually she for him) and he agrees to use his evil eye, but a variety of complications ensue, winding up with Kyser trying to escape from kidnappers so he can get to the arena in time to work his magic. There are many songs here, but aside from a bluesy, artily-shot number by Lena Horne, none of the music is memorable--though there is a fun cameo early on with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey. Pendleton, a former wrestler, has an amusing scene with former boxer Max Rosenbloom and there seems to be great comic potential there, but it's not followed up on. Maxwell and Gargan make a nice couple, and Pamela Blake has a brief but memorable moment as Lois, the secretary. Ish Kabibble gets in a funny rhyme, which he also uses in at least one other Kyser movie: "Mary has a little lamb; she also has a bear. Everybody's seen her lamb, but no one's seen her bear." [TCM]

Friday, September 29, 2006


This is perhaps the most interesting of the Kay Kyser films, mostly because it sticks closely to the world of showbiz and feels like it could have been a documentary of a real wartime tour by a dance band of the era, except for the Nazi spy subplot. The film follows the band on a worldwide tour to entertain Allied troops; they begin in Australia and have stopovers in India, China, Egypt, and Liberia. Much of the film consists of songs and comedic bits performed onstage by the band and guest celebrities Joan Davis and Mischa Auer, playing themselves. Davis is amusing, but the dour-looking Auer, a decent comic actor in films such as MY MAN GODFREY and YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, seems uncomfortable doing stand-up type routines. Between the band's appearances in front of soldiers, a couple of threadbare plots unfold. One centers on a young actress, Marcy McGuire, playing what I assume is a fictionalized version of herself, who stows away with the band when they leave Australia. She eventually gets to perform onstage, her highlight being a cute patter song, "The Moke from Shomokin" (which she sings looking a bit bug-eyed), but soon tragedy strikes her family and she has to learn the lesson that, in her chosen profession, the show must go on. The other plot has Kyser and Auer getting involved with an exotic Countess (Joan Valerie), not realizing that she's a spy who's trying to pass on secret plans hidden in a flashy ring. There is a particularly cute song, "Roodle-ee-doo," which consists of a string of then-current slang phrases, and an "inspiring" song, "Great News Is in the Making," which is sung at the end of each of their shows. Robert Armstrong plays the general who has to break bad news to McGuire, and Kyser regular Ish Kibble does his usual corny jokes. [TCM]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Bandleader Kay Kyser was quite popular in the 1940's, largely due to his radio show "Kay Kyser's Kollege of Musical Knowledge" which featured music, comedy, and music trivia quizzes. His band featured singers Harry Babbitt and Ginny Simms, and the chief comic relief, aside from Kyser himself, was cornet player Ish Kabibble (his real name was the just as unlikely Merwyn Bogue) who came off as a mellow dimwit--his stage name is apparently based on a Yiddish expression that has been translated as, "What, me worry?" Kyser and the band made a number of comedies in the 40's, mostly playing themselves. Though none of them come anywhere the heights of the Marx Brothers or Crosby and Hope, they are all entertaining, and to my mind, some of them are as good as and even better than the average Abbott and Costello movie. I've already reviewed THAT'S RIGHT YOU'RE WRONG and I've caught up with most of the rest of them recently and will write them up this week. In this one, Kyser, playing himself, gets a draft notice on his wedding day. It turns out to have been a case of mistaken identity, but he's enlisted by the government to do some spy work because the Orchid Club, where he and his band are playing, may be a hotbed of espionage. His partner in spying, blonde looker Jane Wyman, makes Kyser's new wife (Ellen Drew) jealous, but he can't tell his wife or his band what's going on, leading to lots of comic misunderstandings. Robert Armstrong (Carl Denham in the original KING KONG), the owner of the club, is the Nazi spy, and in an nifty twist, he's getting messages out to his fellow Nazis through Morse code worked into the musical arrangements of the songs. Things drag a bit in the middle, but the ending, with everyone racing around an abandoned theater, is fun. There are only a couple of songs, but Ish Kabibble gets to do some of his deadpan shtick, and familiar supporting cast faces include Una O'Connor, William Demerest, and Helen Westley. (Talk show host Mike Douglas was a singer with the band, but doesn't have a featured role in any of the movies.) Generally good fun. [TCM]

Monday, September 25, 2006


As widescreen 60's historical epics go, this is about average: there is some beautiful cinematography and the sets are impressive, but the drama can't quite live up to all those trappings. In fact, in some ways, this material might have worked better as a two-person play since, even though there appear to be thousands of extras milling about, essentially there are only two important speaking roles, the great sculptor and painter Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) and his patron Pope Julius II (Rex Harrison). The movie, like the recent CAPOTE, doesn't try to encapsulate Michelangelo's entire life but instead covers one crucial period of time: his work on the Sistine Chapel from 1508 to 1513. Julius, known as the Warrior Pope, is at war with France trying to recover the Papal States under the banner of the Vatican, and the film includes a couple of lackluster battle sequences, but mostly we see Julius warring with Michelangelo over the painting of the Chapel. Michelangelo sees himself as a sculptor rather than a painter, and when the film opens, he has been spending years on a series of statues for the future tomb of the Pope and resents it when Julius pulls him away to work on the chapel ceiling. Once Michelangelo does throw himself into the painting, he has conflicts with Julius about time, cost, and style, specifically the scandalous nudity of some of his figures. The cardinals find the nudes to be obscene, but the artist's response is, "God created man with pride--it was left to the priests to create shame." Whenever Michelangelo seems ready to give up, the Pope goads him into continuing, and later when Julius is on what all assume to be his deathbed, about to succumb to battle injuries, the artist goads him back to health.

There is a woman, a Medici countess (Diane Cilento), who loves Michelangelo and nurses him back to health after he reaches total exhaustion while working on the ceiling, but he is unwilling to take energy away from his art to put into a relationship. In fact, although the movie ignores long-standing theories that Michangelo had love affairs with men, the film does treat Michelangelo, Julius, and the countess almost as a love triangle. It's worth noting that the movie is at least twice removed from history, as it is based on a novel by Irving Stone, and the countess is apparently a totally fictional character. There isn't much humor, except for a kind of running gag involving Michelangelo accidentally dropping things from the scaffolding onto the priests during mass. The only other actors with much dialogue are Harry Andrews as a papal architect and supervisor of the chapel painting, and Thomas Milian as Raphael, an artist whom the Pope considers using at one point to replace Michelangelo. The cinematography is quite good, and a scene in which Michelangelo is inspired by a view of clouds from a mountaintop to shape his God and Adam comes off nicely, although it could easily have been dreadful kitsch. The reconstructions of the in-progress ceiling are impressive, but the shot near the end of the completed art made me a little dizzy. Heston is at the peak of his looks, though Harrison nearly acts him right off the screen. [FMC]

Saturday, September 23, 2006


I don't know if it's really fair to review a movie during which I fell asleep, not once but twice, but here goes. I'm a odd Sherlock Holmes fan: I've probably only read four or five of the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle, but I'm a big fan of the Rathbone movies and I enjoy reading the Holmes pastiches and tributes written by other writers. Though this film's title is also the title of the first published Sherlock Holmes story, the movie's plot has nothing to do with it. Given that, the story isn't a bad one, but if you've ever read or seen an adaptation of Agatha Christie's "Ten Little Indians," you'll know what to expect. Reginald Owen, a fine supporting actor of the 30's and 40's, perhaps best known as Scrooge in the 1938 CHRISTMAS CAROL, does a nice job as Holmes, who is called upon by a widow (Doris Lloyd) whose husband's inheritance is going not to her, but to a small "secret" group called the Scarlet Ring, whose members split up the inheritance money of the others--an arrangement called a tontine, also used as a plot device in Robert Louis Stevenson's "The Wrong Box." When other members of the group begin dying mysteriously, Holmes suspects that one member is getting greedy and tries to track him or her down. Warburton Gamble makes a particularly colorless Watson, though Alan Mowbray as Lastrade and Alan Dinehart as the chief suspect are both good, and Anna May Wong has a small but important role. The movie has a cheap Poverty-Row look, but delivers some atmosphere toward the end. My falling asleep had more to do with me than with the movie, although it's not exactly a nail-biter. [DVD]

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


This appears to be George Reeves' 21st century cultural moment: Ben Affleck plays him in a current big-budget film (Hollywoodland) and seasons of the Superman TV show are being released on DVD. I got the season one boxed set for my birthday and, coincidentally as we're making our way through the shows, TCM aired this little-seen B-film which features Reeves in one of his few leading roles. Contrary to what you might think from his Superman persona, he's charming and frothy and does as good a job at romantic second-feature lead as any other B-leading man of the time. Though the movie itself (a small town romantic triangle) isn't that good, it's because of the writing, not because of Reeves. The real problem with the short film is that it feels like two different movies, or more to the point, like the pilot of a so-so TV show, followed by an early episode. In the first half, Rosemary Lane is engaged to the colorless but socially connected John Eldredge, but she obviously prefers the handsomer, hunkier George Reeves, even though he's a glib tongued flatterer for whom a career is not a high priority. His rich uncle (Oscar O'Shea) is tired of supporting him and Lane's folks are in Eldredge's corner, but still Reeves manages to win Lane's hand, partly by fast talking Eldredge out of the very idea of marriage. In the second half, Reeves is still out of a job and O'Shea refuses to foot any more of their bills; Reeves goes to the mayor hoping for an appointive position, but the mayor and his cronies, thinking Reeves is a simpleton, agree to pay his bills if he'll run against the mayor in the forthcoming election, providing what they hope will be an easy win for the mayor. Instead, Reeves decides to take politics seriously and launches a real run, using his rhetorical gifts to run on a platform of "Here's why you shouldn't vote for me." The outcome is predictable. Reeves is quite good, the only real reason to see the movie. He's funny and completely believable as a fast talking but well intentioned bumpkin who isn't really a bumpkin. Lane is so-so, running at fairly low energy, and the plotting and dialogue could be stronger--the last five minutes or so are particularly weak. But I'm glad to have seen this other side of George Reeves, and I'd definitely recommend this to Reeves fans. Heaven knows where they got the title from. [TCM]

Sunday, September 17, 2006


A very entertaining "what if" story which was undoubtedly produced as wartime propaganda to prepare the British people in case of German invasion, which was much feared at the time. The film, set in the cozy village of Bramley End, begins with an "Our Town" feel, as a narrator talks directly to the camera and relates the events of the wartime story from a vantage point several years after the war, claiming that government had kept the story under wraps on purpose. We are introduced to the villagers as they go about their lives, with preparations for a weekend wedding taking up most everyone's time. When a group of Army engineers come rolling into town for maneuvers and requisition temporary housing, the villagers are only too happy to accommodate them, and the vicar offers up the church for the bulk of the men. We find out that the men are actually Germans preparing for a parachute invasion; in a long sequence which is not quite Hitchcockian but still quite tense, we wait for the Germans to slip up or for a nosy villager to stumble onto the truth. When their cover is blown, the Nazis round up most of the villagers in the church, letting a few back to their homes, accompanied by soldiers, so the illusion of everyday life can be sustained in case outsiders might breeze into town. The rest of the film follows the resourceful men and women of Bramley End as they attempt to get word to the outside world and fight back against their occupiers. The most remarkable thing about the film is the sudden violence that crops up, and the fact that none of the characters (even the children) is exempt from the possibility of injury or death. An old woman who has been something like comic relief suddenly attacks a soldier with an axe and kills him, and just as suddenly, another soldier enters, sees the dead body, and shoots the woman dead. The violence is not gory, but it is sudden, frequent, and fairly graphic for its time, though all the more effective for not being rendered in close-up in Dolby 5.1 surround sound. This is mostly an ensemble piece, with the only standout (in terms of narrative focus) being Leslie Banks (the crazy hunter in THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME) as a distinguished village squire who is actually a collaborationist. Other familiar faces in the cast include C.V. France as the aged vicar, Basil Sydney as the Nazi in command, David Farrar (the hunk who gets the nuns hot and bothered in BLACK NARCISSUS) as another Nazi, and Mervyn Jones (Bob Cratchit in the Alastair Sim CHRISTMAS CAROL) and Elizabeth Allan (leading lady in MARK OF THE VAMPIRE) as villagers. The film is more artful than much propaganda of the time and remains well worth watching for its low-key documentary-like style, its tension, and its portrayal of everyday people in extraordinary circumstances. [DVD]

Thursday, September 14, 2006


Fairly lame pre-Code office romance melodrama, worth catching only for Mary Astor. She plays a secretary at a paper company who is secretly holding a torch for traveling salesman Robert Ames. She helps further his career by feeding him tips, and when the big boss retires, Astor not only talks a banker into selling the company to the employees, she also gets a big raise for Ames. Six months later, Ames is president, but we see that Astor, as his secretary, is really the driving force behind the company, though certainly underappreciated by the rather slimy Ames, who is either willfully unaware of her romantic interest or just doesn't care. In the meantime, Astor has been pursued by wealthy but married Ricardo Cortez; they meet cute playing Blindman's Bluff and Truth or Dare at a party and, though he says he's separated, she still avoids getting in too deep. Ames has a trampy mistress (Edna Murphy) whom he hires as a secretary, even though she's incompetent, but eventually he gets engaged to the ritzy Catherine Dale Owen, leaving both Astor and Murphy behind. In the rather frustrating but predictable finale, Astor winds up with Ames, though he still doesn't really seem to appreciate her. Astor is fine, as is Cortez who gives his playboy character a sheen of genuine charm which helps make him a bit more sympathetic than the average "rich guy who loses the girl" in movies of the era. The real problem with the movie is leading man Ames, who when he filmed this was just about a year away from an untimely death at the age of 42 from alcoholism. It is difficult to see anything redeeming about his character--he's not handsome, he's not charming, and he really never fully appreciates Astor--and I was rooting for Cortez to win out. [TCM]

Monday, September 11, 2006

SHAFT (1971)

One of the triad of seminal 70's "blaxploitation" films (which, oddly enough, all begin with the letter "S"), the other two being SUPERFLY and SWEET SWEETBACK'S BADASSSSS SONG. Of the three, SHAFT comes the closest to having a traditional Hollywood narrative, with a good-guy hero (not an unorthodox anti-hero as in the other two films) and a fairly straightforward private-eye plotline. In fact, what surprised me most about this film was how similar it was to an old-fashioned Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe movie, set in New York City rather than California. John Shaft (Richard Roundtree) is the black private investigator who manages to work with "the man" (the white cops) and still keep his street cred with friends, clients, and informers. Bumpy, a powerful Harlem gangster (Moses Gunn) strongarms Shaft into trying to find his kidnapped daughter, the one who's going to go to college and get a better life. At first, Bumpy claims the culprit must be Ben Buford (Christopher St. John), the leader of a black radical group, but when Shaft contacts him, a bunch of Buford's men get slaughtered and Buford joins up with Shaft to go after the real villains, some Mafia hoods new to town who want to muscle in on Bumpy's trade. Shaft, who feels he's been used by Bumpy, is reluctant to continue, but a cop friend of Shaft's (Charles Cioffi) is afraid that the gang activity could be mistaken for a "race" war, so Shaft follows the case to its bloody climax. A long and excessively violent sequence at the beginning involving a man falling to his death from Shaft's office window makes little narrative sense, and the final battle, which involves lots of men and guns and a high powered water hose, is ludicrous, but both scenes work in that 70's "ultraviolence" way. The film was obviously shot on a B-movie budget, but most of it seems to have been done on the streets of NYC and it makes for an interesting window into that specific time and place. The opening, with Shaft strutting through Times Square, shows him pass 7 or 8 movie marquees, with films ranging from big Hollywood hits of the day to more squalid action thrillers to porn; it seems to be self-conscious announcement that this movie will fit right in with the grand Times Square tradition. Shaft gets to tell off Whitey a few times (and bed and dump a trampy white girl whom a flamingly gay bartender fixes him up with) and throw attitude everywhere, and Roundtree is very good as an updated Chandleresque "private dick who's a sex machine with all the chicks"--did you really think I'd write this review without quoting a line from that fabulous theme song by Isaac Hayes? Despite all the violence (and the two short sex scenes), what really got my blood racing was when the opening riff of the theme song kicks in at the very end. Not as raw and subversive as SUPERFLY, but more fun. [TCM]

Friday, September 08, 2006


[Spoiler included!!] Very odd early talkie with Loretta Young in a dual role, and not one but two (or even three) wildly implausible plot twists--major suspension of disbelief is needed to make it through this one. In the first few minutes of the film, we meet a non-traditional little family composed of two small-time crooks (the dapper George Barraud and the sickly Raymond Hatton) and Mary, the young woman (Loretta Young) whom they raised. Weird Plot Twist One: We find out that she's an honest-to-God mind reader and not just a trick entertainer; if she concentrates hard enough, she can actually read people's minds. You'd think that with a talent like that, she'd be in great demand, but she's out of work (due to a harassing boss) and agrees to pull a jewelry heist with her "fathers." Weird Plot Twist Two: while the three are having dinner at a Chinese restaurant frequented by underworld figures, a group of idle rich "slummers" comes waltzing in, and one of the group (Margaret, also played by Young) is a dead ringer for Mary. Our family targets them for the robbery, but things don't go smoothly and Margaret is shot, falling into a mini-coma. While the two guys run, Mary stays with Margaret and swaps clothes and identities with her. Thanks to Mary's ability to read the mind of the unconscious Margaret, the cops fall for her ruse, as do the maid, the butler, and even Margaret's boyfriend (Jack Mulhall). The next morning, when the real Margaret awakens, the jig seems to be up, but in Plot Twist Three (contrived and predictable, but not necessarily weird), the women discover that they are long-separated twin sisters. Turner Classic Movies got the running time wrong (as has been happening too often lately) so my DVR cut off the last 3 or 4 minutes, but a happy ending was clearly in store for all (except perhaps for Mary's fathers). Young is lovely and quite good in the two roles; the special effect used to have the two Youngs interact seems not to be split screen, but rear projection, and it is indeed effective, especially in the restaurant scene in which Mary is right behind Margaret, listening to her conversation. [TCM]

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


The release of a 6-disc Busby Berkeley DVD set has provided a good excuse for me to revisit some of these fun movies which helped to define the classic Hollywood musical genre. Though Berkeley did direct some films, his most famous ones, including most of the films in the set, are ones for which he did only choreography and direction of musical segments, but these films are remembered today almost solely due to his contributions. Most of these 30's films involve a traditional show biz plot, usually following the travails of a group of people struggling against odds to put on a show. The cast of characters almost always involves a beleaguered director, cost-cutting producers, a charming young leading man, and a chorus girl who gets a big break at a starring role. Here, James Cagney is the director whose shady producers (one of whom is Guy Kibbee) tell him they don't want to back a new Broadway show because movies are killing the stage musical. Cagney's response is to start a whole new business creating live traveling "prologue" shows, essentially free-standing production numbers, to accompany hit movies. Just as he gets his business off the ground, he runs into trouble when a rival company starts copying his show ideas. Suspecting there's a spy in the woodwork (and there is), Cagney locks his cast and crew in the theater while they finish rehearsing three new prologues. The film climaxes with the three numbers, all Busby Berkeley spectaculars. Dick Powell, as usual, is the juvenile lead and Ruby Keeler, as usual, is the chorus girl/breakout star (though her personality is so drab and her talent so average that I have a hard time buying her sudden stardom). Joan Blondell, usually a brassy second-string dancer in the chorus, plays Cagney's secretary and love interest, though she has to battle a couple of rivals (Blondell's trampy roommate Claire Dodd and greedy ex-wife Renee Whitney) along the way. The overstuffed plot also involves the producers cheating Cagney out of money and a backstage censor (Hugh Herbert) who tries to clean up a number involving dancing cats in heat. Also in the cast is Frank McHugh as a choreographer and Ruth Donnelley as Kibbee's conniving wife. Of the three main numbers, "By a Waterfall" is the most spectacular, a kind of forerunner of the Esther Williams aquashow numbers of the 40's; "Honeymoon Hotel" is the sexy one, with lots of married men using the name Smith spending the night with their mistresses; "Shanghai Lil," which features Cagney, is a narrative number of the kind done to perfection years later by Gene Kelly. The dance numbers defy description; just see them. My favorite line: Blondell to Dodd: "As long as they have sidewalks, you'll have a job!" [DVD]

Sunday, September 03, 2006

GIDGET (1959)

I am not a big fan of beach movies, despite the potential for studying undraped male pulchritude. Usually, when people talk about such films, they are referencing the series done in the mid-60's by American International, starring Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello, but I think that many of the widespread beach movie cliches actually came from this film, which was the inspiration for two later movies and two TV series. Sandra Dee plays Frances, a high school girl who finds herself and her hormones running a little behind her boy-crazy pals. While they are looking forward to a summer of flirting with college-age boys, Dee, a little gawkier and less developed than her friends, doesn't understand what the fuss is about. Instead of flirting, she winds up hanging out on the beach with some surf bums who adopt her as a mascot. The leader of the gang is known as the Big Kanuha (Cliff Robertson), a Korean War vetern who has decided to drop out of society and follow the sun. Dee, nicknamed Gidget for "girl midget," admires him but soon falls in love with the handsome, younger Moondoggie (James Darren), son of a rich father, who wants to follow in the Kahuna's footsteps. However, she always seems to get on Moondoggie's nerves, so when the big summer-ending luau rolls around, she sets in action a silly screwball-comedy plan to make Moondoggie jealous by going after Kahuna. Naturally, things don't quite go as planned, lessons are learned by everyone, including Kahuna (who, just a few years before the hippie movment, goes the opposite route and drops back into the rat race), and Gidget and Moondoggie wind up together (at least temporarily) at the end. There is some surprisingly blunt sex talk, or what passed for such in a late-50's movie made for teenagers, but Gidget remains, despite her best efforts, "pure as the driven snow." Dee is likeable, and the surf bum gang (including Joby Baker, Doug McClure, and future Billy Jack actor Tom Laughlin) start out as an interesting bunch, but their characters aren't allowed to develop and they get pushed into the background by the final third. Arthur O'Connell as Dee's dad seems a little too old for the part (he was 50 but looks older). Mary LaRoche is fine as the mother, though she was better a few years later as Ann-Margaret's mom in BYE BYE BIRDIE (and her best role might be as Telly Savalas's passive, cringing wife in the creepy Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll" with the murderous Talking Tina doll). The beach location shooting is nice, although most of the stars do their surfing in front of a rear-projection screen. It's not a musical, but at one point, just as he's getting snuggly with Dee, Darren breaks out unexpectedly in song. I saw this letterboxed on Turner Classic, and I hear the Columbia DVD, which is pan-and-scanned, is practically unwatchable. [TCM]

Saturday, September 02, 2006


A decent Gothic-type melodrama with a topical twist (the lead character is a post-war refugee from Belsen); Fox Video is marketing this on DVD in their "film noir" line, but it's really not--a little more than shadows and the occasional city street scene is needed to make a noir--and I think die-hard noir fans will be disappointed. It's much more like REBECCA or GASLIGHT than DOUBLE INDEMNITY. Valentina Cortese is a Polish widow who has been thrown into a concentration camp. She befriends a woman named Karin who clearly does not have the resources for survival that Cortese does; despite Cortese's best efforts, Karin dies. Cortese, knowing that the dead woman had shipped her son off to live with wealthy relatives in San Francisco, impulsively takes her identity papers and, when the camp is liberated just a few days later, she passes herself off to the American solider in charge of repatriation (William Lundigan) as Karin. She finds out that the rich aunt is dead and, knowing that the son was just a baby when he was sent away and wouldn't recognize her, she decides to head to the States and make a home with the child. The issue of her motives is a little murky; after the kind of suffering she went through, and knowing she had no home or family left in Europe, it's hard to fault her for wanting a better life, but she is still guilty of working her way into money and motherhood under false pretenses. A more interesting movie might have examined this moral quandary a bit, but that doesn't happen here. At any rate, Cortese gets to the U.S. and meets up with the child's guardian (Richard Basehart), a distant relative of the dead aunt. They hit it off and by the time they get to the West Coast, they're married. The child takes to her and she to him, but the housekeeper (Fay Baker) is standoffish and a little creepy, and soon we suspect that there is more to Basehart than meets the eye. Coincidentally, Lundigan shows up again, as a lawyer friend of Basehart's, and when Cortese suspects that Basehart and Baker are in league against her, she turns to him for help, not knowing that Basehart has told Lundigan that she's going nuts. There is a suspicious car accident, a near-fatality in a mysterious playhouse, and some possibly poisoned drinks on a tray (a la Hitchcock's SUSPICION) before all is resolved. Basehart, who I only really know from his starring role in the 60's TV show "Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea," is quite good at maintaining moral ambiguity (is he good or is he bad?) for most of the movie, better than Cary Grant was in SUSPICION--though I suspect that was more the fault of the script than the actor. Baker, who went on to do mostly supporting TV parts, is also very good, nicely understated in the Mrs. Danvers-like role. Though shot mostly in a studio, there is some nice location footage of San Francisco. I can't recommend this as a film noir, but for a Friday night Gothic thriller, it will fit the bill. [DVD]