Friday, January 11, 2013


Millionaire philanthropist Zachary Scott is giving a party to announce his new international peace institute; his childhood friend Louis Hayward arrives late with his girlfriend Mallory who resembles someone from Scott and Hayward's past. This triggers a flashback to the beginnings of the romantic triangle of Scott, Hayward and Diana Lynn when they were teenagers. Scott's parents are divorced and both are remote figures in his life, with his mother actively oppressive; Scott tries to run away and Lynn's family takes him in. In college, Hayward, in love with Lynn, asks Scott to intercede for him, but Lynn confesses that she loves Scott instead.  However, soon Scott is running in even higher social circles and secretly dates Martha Vickers, who has family connections that Scott can use to further his career. Later, Scott does the same thing when he decides he wants to take control of an independent utilities company run by Sydney Greenstreet—he seduces Greenstreet's younger wife (Lucille Bremer). Back at the party in the present day, as Scott tries to seduced Hayward's date, a drunken Greenstreet barges in to seek revenge.

The amazing thing about this melodrama, which is structured a bit like CITIZEN KANE, is that it shows what B-movie director Edgar G. Ulmer was capable of with a decent-sized budget. Ulmer is known for films made on shoestring budgets which usually had some interesting elements that transcended their Poverty Row origins (DETOUR, BLUEBEARD), but with this one he seems to have had a higher budget and the film is both a little quirky and Hollywood-glossy. Performances are decent across the board: Scott (pictured with Lynn) is good, especially at conveying a certain ambiguity about his actions and motives; Hayward is just OK partly because he is less fleshed-out; Greenstreet and Bremer are quite good in roles that require them to stretch a bit outside their usual screen personas. This film sometimes gets placed on lists of noirs but it's really only tangentially related to noir by visual style, in the same way that KANE is. [Netflix streaming]

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