Monday, September 27, 2010


Psychology professor Ralph Bellamy is hosting a houseful of friends for a weekend at his lake house when escaped killer Chester Morris breaks in and holds them all hostage while he waits for the arrival of an escape boat for him, his moll (Ann Dvorak) and his thugs. We see Morris kill twice in cold blood, so there is a sense of real danger here for the innocent folks, including a child, trapped in the house. While Morris naps, Dvorak asks Bellamy to help Morris get rid of a recurring nightmare which troubles his sleep, involving trying desperately to avoid the rain with an umbrella which holds itself up but has a rip in it; it has actually led Morris to be afraid of rain. Bellamy eventually engages Morris in a brief Freudian analysis session, showing him that the dream is masking a repressed memory that Morris needs to dredge up. He does, but with the cops hot on Morris's trail, he doesn't get much time to enjoy his new peace of mind.

This stagy melodrama must have been one of Hollywood's earliest attempts to deal with psychoanalysis. At just 70 minutes, this B-movie is quite watchable; Bellamy is cast nicely against type as a serious, non-bumbling fellow, and Morris does a fine job as the troubled killer. The dream scene is presented in negative, and the repressed memory is shot in a German expressionistic style. There are two subplots which aren't handled very well: one, involving a grad student protégé of Bellamy's, goes nowhere and can't really even be called a subplot; the other involves a couple (Melville Cooper and Joan Perry) with marital problems, and the passive man (John Eldredge) with whom Perry flirts. This plot feels like it lost something in the editing. Nevertheless, Bellamy and Morris (and the interesting if simplified ideas of dream interpretation) make this worth seeing. It was remade a few years later with William Holden as THE DARK PAST. [TCM]

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