Saturday, July 18, 2009


This decent little thriller with occasional noir touches starts out like a knock-off of REAR WINDOW, except that this film was actually released several months before the much better Hitchcock film. The effective opening sequence is set on a wild, blustery night; when design artist Barbara Stanwyck wakes up to close her windows, she sees, in the apartment house across the street, George Sanders strangling a woman to death. She calls the police, but Sanders is too quick, having dragged the body to the vacant apartment next door, and the cops (Gary Merrill and Jesse White) have to apologize to Sanders for bothering him. The next morning, Stanwyck sees Sanders cart a large trunk (with what she assumes is the dead body inside) into his car and she sets out to find solid evidence against him. Sanders, an author with, shall we say, Nietzschean tendencies, starts gaslighting Stanwyck, making her think she's going insane; she does eventually get a bit hysterical (in what seems like a dry run to play the matriarch on Big Valley several years later) and winds up spending some time in a psych ward before she finally turns the tables on Sanders, who ends up being a full-fledged neo-Nazi.

Despite the presence of Stanwyck and Sanders, this looks and feels like a B-movie or a TV episode, churned out in a couple of weeks. There are plot loopholes and cheap looking sets, though the opening windy night sequence is carried out nicely, and is the closest the film gets to any real noir feeling. Sanders is fine as usual, though Stanwyck feels a bit restrained until her mad scenes. Merrill, who eventually falls for Stanwyck as he starts believing her story, is a zero. White, his sidekick, gets to give an amusing "Dragnet" reference. It's not great, but it's not a waste of time, either, especially for fans of damsel-in-distress thrillers. [TCM]

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