Tuesday, April 05, 2011


This psychological thriller opens like a romantic comedy: in Vienna, married lady Gloria Stuart sneaks off to meet her lover, Walter Pidgeon, for a tryst at his fancy home. The mood changes when her husband (Paul Lukas), who has followed her, shoots her dead through a window, then calls the police and confesses to murder. Lukas explains his state of mind to his lawyer and old friend (Frank Morgan) through a flashback: while his wife was dressing to go out, Lukas surprised her at her mirror and could see by the look in her eyes that she was no longer in love with him, and was preparing to meet her lover. Morgan thinks he can get Lukas off by arguing he was in the grip of an intense and understandable psychological compulsion, but when Morgan goes home to his wife (Nancy Carroll), who is primping before a mirror, he sees the same look on her face that Lukas saw on Stuart. Sure enough, Morgan follows Carroll to her tryst. He decides if he can get Lukas off on his planned defense, he'll kill his own wife the same way.

This is an engrossing, well-paced melodrama from James Whale, known better for his Frankenstein movies, and some sequences here are shot in almost horror-movie fashion. Morgan gives a relatively understated performance until his last courtroom scene. Lukas is very good, as is Stuart in what amounts to a cameo role, and Jean Dixon and Charley Grapewin are fine providing some mild comic relief as Morgan’s assistants. Whale did a B-movie remake of this a few years later (WIVES UNDER SUSPICION) which is worth seeing, but this version is a must-see for fans of pre-Code films or courtroom thrillers. [TCM]

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