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The police, under the guidance of Inspector Cornell (Laird Cregar), are
investigating the murder of wannabe glamour girl Vicky (Carole Landis).
Cornell's main suspect is sports promoter Frankie (Victor Mature) and
Cornell spends his time trying to gather evidence against him ......but
has he got the wrong suspect?
This story is told in flashback and has a good, if repetitive, music score that accompanies it. The cast are all good and there are many memorable scenes, eg, the section where Frankie and another suspect are brought into a screening room and forced to watch a film of Vicky singing. The close-up on her face is very effective as we watch with the rest of the room.
It's an interesting story that you can try to second guess but you'll be wrong. However, what on earth is the title about? There is no screaming in this film.....thank God.....
War-time film noir has small-time promoter Frankie (Mature) accused of murdering a young client (Landis) just as she is leaving him for Hollywood. A brutish police inspector (Cregar) is convinced Frankie did the dastardly deed, and hounds him. The dead woman's sister (Grable), at first skeptical of Frankie, comes to believe him and helps him as the police tighten their net. It will be evident who the real murderer is from the moment he appears on screen, but the fun here is in following the tense cat and mouse game between Frankie and the obsessive inspector. Cregar steals every scene he is in. And pinup queen Grable ain't half-bad as the conflicted sister. Colorful supporting cast includes Alan Mowbray as a washed-up actor, William Gargan as a society columnist, Charles Lane as a florist, Morris Ankrum as an assistant DA and Elisha Cook Jr. as a front desk man. Well worth a look.
Sometimes it's the acting that makes a movie good. Other times it could be the directing or the script and other times the music or cinematography. In this movie, all the elements of movie-making are brought together to produce a great movie. In this movie the film-noir technique is used to great effectiveness to bring out and compliment the essential coldness of the story. Also, the performances of Betty Grable and Carole Landis as sisters was incredible. First, they looked like sisters and second, they acted like sisters. Of course, it helps an actress's career if she's attractive, but she still has to be able to act and both of these ladies could act. Laird Cregar's performance was uncanny. He was the epitome of obsession. His performance carried the movie. Victor Mature was wonderful. He could act and in this movie displays an wide range of emotions. The story is itself is compact, concise, and coherent and moves along at a fast pace. This movie is a classic and warrants a lot more attention.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Carol Landis is a waitress discovered by promoter Frank Christopher,
nicely played by the suave Victor Mature. He promises her the world and
this really goes to her head. When she attempts to go off on her own,
murder catches up with her and of course Mature is the leading suspect,
while falling very much in love with sister Betty Grable.
The film concentrates on possible other suspects Allyn Joslyn and others. If you have a keen eye for these mysteries, you should be able to figure out who the real culprit is.
There is an unusual performance by an off-the-wall cop who loved and followed Landis. He never forgave Mature for supposedly taking Landis away from him and while he knew of Christopher's innocence, he kept the idea well alive that the latter was the killer.
Basically routine fanfare with a girl who let notoriety go to her head and wound up a murder victim. Sister gets the best deal at the end.
"I Wake Up Screaming" is a prototype noir, produced in 1941. Hollywood
refined the genre over the next several years, adding layers of menace
and edginess and coming up with gems like "Out Of The Past" and "Raw
Deal". This film was a good start, but was laden down with lightweight
acting talent like Betty Grable, Carole Landis and Victor Mature. But
they got the supporting cast right with frightened-little-man nonpareil
Elisha Cooke, Jr. and creepy Laird Cregar.
The picture is further hobbled by the second-worst Hollywood movie title ever, right after "Kiss The Blood Off My Hands"(1948), since no one wakes up screaming and makes the picture sound like a cheap horror movie. In fact, it is a good, tight, well-written murder mystery with several suspects to choose from and a riveting performance by the aforementioned Cregar. I felt Betty Grable lacked gravitas for noir roles and that Victor Mature was just passable, although this was one of his earliest roles. He is reunited with non-actress Carole Landis, his co-star in "One Million BC" (1940).
Get past the title and watch it if you get the chance, and ponder what might have been with a better cast and some atmospheric, noir-type music ("Over The Rainbow"???). Everything else you could ask for is there.
I have no comments on the plot as they are adequately covered
above.However I rated this film only 5/10 and cannot endorse the
critical acclaim others seem to bestow on it.I found it so-so just
average with a second division cast.A common farcical device (which
still persists today) is a scene in a film when an unbidden character
suddenly appears in the middle of someone else's apartment as if they
could walk through walls and doors.There were several instances of this
irritating device in this film.I like social realism in film noirs, New
York must have been one of the most unsafe cities if this is the level
of protection inhabitants enjoyed in 1941.Proper door security on doors
should include a good quality deadlock & sliding bolt & chain (not just
the retractable latch key type lock which can sometimes be overridden
by a credit card).Characters in this film seemed to be entering each
others apartments at will!! Also why did the accused not call legal
counsel as the police would not have dared to use such rough
interrogation techniques.Of course anyone with commonsense knew who the
real culprit was long before the denouement.Today officers of the law
would find themselves on a charge of legal harassment if they pursued &
questioned suspects in the rough manner portrayed.
One character I could not take my eyes off was Alan Mowbray who played the "ham" actor.I can only see & remember him as "Sir William Hamilton" British ambassador to the kingdom of Naples in Napoleonic times in "That Hamilton Woman" also 1941, which starred Vivien Leigh/Laurence Olivier.
I wish I had the least bit of positivity I could throw in this movie's
direction...but...alas, I do not. This is what I call a "heartbreaking
noir," because that's what it does - it breaks your noir-loving heart,
and into tiny pieces at that.
In a nutshell, I'd put it this way: first of all, this is no film noir. This is the category known as gangster (where you'll find White Heat and Public Enemy and The Roaring Twenties, for example), so shame on Fox for utterly mislabeling this. (And a single noir-redolent shot, thrown in as if somebody said, "Hey, this'll be cool!" sure doesn't count.) Second, the story is idiot hokum of the lowest order, shamelessly imbecilic and easy/pointless to figure out (and if I'm saying that, a person who rarely figures out that X is the murderer before the final frame, then we're talking radical hokum for sure...I figured out X was the murderer before 20 minutes was up). It just doesn't hold your interest, no matter how high your disbelief is suspended. Third, the title is miles beyond misnomer, it's just plain unhinged, it's as if some studio suit absolutely insisted I Wake Up Screaming be the title, or it was originally a monster movie and every last monster scene was cut out. (Which may be true, given a Frankenstein line Carole Landis utters.) Fourth...oh forget fourth. It's just bad, bad, bad, all day long, and understand, I'm a film-noir fanatic. But I guess that's the thing - I take these films damn seriously; they have to at least be minutely engaging, you know?
Sometimes you luck out, you score a noir that's not super-great as a movie but it doesn't matter, the joys far outweigh the sorrows. This is not one of those films. In fact, I'd call this contemptuous on every level, crap from 1941 that's no different from crap in 2006, except for the heartbreak. This ain't no Somewhere in the Night, an imperfect film that's thoroughly joyful nonetheless, saturated as it is with exquisite film-noirisms. I'd say stay away from this unless you're a hardcore Victor Mature/Betty Grable fan or old movies, no matter their quality, are narcotics for you.
Hope I wasn't too hard on it!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Nice Betty Grable and her slightly younger trashy sister Carol Landis
share an apartment in NYC. While Betty is a home typist, Carol is a
waitress in a joint downtown. Vis-a-vis police interrogation flash
backs we find that One night three pals (a fight promoter, a has- been
actor & a gossip columnist) make a bet how they can turn Carol from a
two-bit hash slinger into a society page talk of the town. They succeed
altho sister Betty is skeptical. Overnight Carol does become a
sensation and next thing you know Hollywood beckons so she blows off
her 3 benefactors to head for tinsel town.
Next day Betty finds the fight promoter, Victot Mature bending over sister Carol's fresh corpse. Naturally he claims he didn't do it.
Enter spooky homicide cop Lard Kruger. He has a notorious track record within NYPD for solving murder cases. His conviction rate is something like twenty thousand in favor, no failures. He says Victor Mature is guilty and that's that. He looses this one tho and in the end proves just how creepy he really is.
Well, after an hour or so of more suspects, red herrings, plot twists, endless shots of Betty Grables famous legs and one unnecessary public swimming pool scene (more Gable gam & meaty Victor Mature in spandex), the real killer is revealed and Betty &Vic find true love. The end. Since this movie had a murder in it, by todays criteria, it is called noir. I call it a pretty good murder mystery. Sure, it's contrived but it's very well produced/ directed so worth a view. I can't recall any scene where someone wakes up screaming or anyone remarking the had, so I guess the title was a marketing ploy.
and besides it IS pretty much "awful" as 1 is supposed to indicate
maybe it might get another star for the fact that they put Victor at
the swimming' hole at what midnight or something... which is quite a
stretch at least they realized that as groucho said, the man's breasts
were bigger than the lady's. anyway his hotness'es hotness is about all
in the in this venture, along with the always welcome Laird Cregar,
always welcome LC!
Watching this also I could only think how could Carole Landis give up the ghost fo Rex darned Harrison?? Life is strange isn't it? There's no justice, is there?
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