Wednesday, February 27, 2008


Much-loved humanitarian doctor George Macready gets a deadly infection during an operation and is on his deathbed. His wife, Jeanne Bates, disparages religion because all her praying to God is doing no good, so she desperately prays to any force, even the devil, to save him. A mysterious woman (Rose Hobart) appears out of nowhere, asking to see the doctor, claiming she was called by his wife. Macready is cured, but he seems to be a changed man: both his wife and his old friend (Erik Rolf) notice he's become cold and mean, his once-faithful dog avoids him, and a corsage that he holds immediately wilts. At a party, a storm terrifies the guests but it seems to energize Macready, who asks the pianist to play the Mephisto Waltz. A disembodied voice draws him away from the party in order to have a dalliance with Hobart. She gives him an ice pick and orders him to kill Rolf. In a scene right out of a Val Lewton film, Macready stalks Rolf down dark city streets until a crucifix lying on the sidewalk stops him in his tracks. Soon Hobart gets him to kill a young colleague and he winds up threatened with death row.

This is an odd little B-film which clearly aspires to the Lewtonesque heights of CAT PEOPLE or SEVENTH VICTIM. Much of it is stylishly shot, and the acting is fine, though the low budget does hurt the look of the movie. Ultimately, the script weakens any overall impact the film might have had. It's startling to hear, in a film of the 40's, a character running down religion in no uncertain terms, and it's even unusual for a non-comic-relief female to be the devil's emissary. But the ridiculous ending pretty much makes mush of everything that goes before. Ultimately, it's a movie might have worked better as a Twilight Zone episode. This Columbia film doesn't crop up often, so it's worth catching if you see it listed, but don't spend a lot of time hunting it down. [TCM]

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