Tuesday, November 15, 2011


One night, handsome research scientist Jeffrey Hunter finds lovely trophy wife Anne Francis drunk and passed out in a car parked across some railroad tracks. He tries to rouse her and fails, but when a train comes down the tracks, he breaks into the car and rescues her. He gets her to the home of her husband, Dana Andrews (coincidentally the owner of the company he works for) and discovers that he interrupted a suicide attempt. A few nights later, she tells him it was all a mistake and invites him to a party; it turns out it's a scavenger party and he is one of the hunted objects, a "scientific device." He takes it in relative good humor and later that night, she admits she hates her husband and they embark on an affair. Eventually Andrews finds out about it and, discovering that Hunter had a breakdown some years ago, begins a scheme to make it seem like Hunter is going nuts again: among other things, Hunter's office is vandalized and the janitor claims that Hunter did it one night in a rage. Hunter decides to turn the tables: he'll act like he really is going insane, and then kill Andrews, using the insanity defense to get away with it. Not surprisingly, things don’t go exactly as planned—Hunter must not have seen SHOCK CORRIDOR where a similar idea goes awry.

This is a glossy 60s take on film noir, specifically DOUBLE INDEMNITY, though it's missing a few crucial elements: lovely as Anne Francis is, she winds up in a supporting role; she's not even a real femme fatale, as, unlike Stanwyck in INDEMNITY, she's essentially passive, not actively engineering events in any way. We also don’t get very close to Hunter, so we don't care as much about his fate as we might if we knew more about him. The film is essentially a three-person show, and though Hunter and Francis are OK, neither is terribly compelling, and Andrews doesn't have much to do. Viveca Lindfors does well with her supporting role as Hunter's therapist. Directed with some visual style by William Conrad, TV's Cannon. [TCM]

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