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Joseph H. Lewis
The proprietor of an ice-skating revue promotes a peanut-vendor at the show to a management position based on suggestions he made to improve the act of the show's star, who also happens to be the owner's wife. However, he soon begins to notice that his new manager is paying more attention to his wife than he believes is appropriate, and begins to suspect that his new manager has designs not only on his wife but on his business. Meanwhile, someone from the new manager's past shows up with information that could wreck his plans. Written by
The was the biggest budget film ever for Monogram Pictures and it is evident in this very well produced nightclub noir from 1946. British skating star known as BELITA was the queen of Monogram for a few years and the money spent on her 40s musicals LADY LET'S DANCE and SILVER SKATES proved what an asset she truly was. The reviews for LADY famously declared: "Mega budget time on poverty row" - with half a dozen extravagant big band music sequences with herself zipping about in all sorts of incredible costumes. SUSPENSE made in '46 is almost the same story as GILDA made the same year at Columbia. However Rita couldn't skate and Belita wasn't Rita. but, in it's own way SUSPENSE is an excellent thriller with some of the most bizarre and creepy scenes I have seen in a 40s noir drama. The best of which actually occurs in a dance-skate number which I can only describe as: set imagery from Salvador Dali mixed with a quite obvious S&M costume design (spangly scimitars on Belita's bosom, black hot-pants, cape and stockings (!) and a horror stunt involving a doorway of jagged wiggly iron swords (yes the jaws of death) that our gorgeous lead actress must skate towards and jump through..... backwards! All to a pulsating kettledrum gonging away. Imagine being in the front row for that! Producers, King Bros were rewarded at Monogram by massive ($4m+) USA rentals from DILLINGER in 1945 and the head office put up a handsome budget for this film. It cost $1.1m, a record spend for Monogram and put the studio in the A league for a while. Following a stream of noir successes like THE GANGSTER Monogram stepped up a few rungs on the Hollywood ladder and changed their name to ALLIED ARTISTS. They used these strong profits to make IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE, FRIENDLY PERSUASION in '56 and in the 70s, went on to produce CABARET and THE MAN WHO WOULD BE KING. The skating dance shows in SUSPENSE are very spectacular and it is a quite a surprise how big and crowded the nightclub sets are. the penthouse scenes are 10 years ahead of Forbidden Planet in their snazzy moderne style. This is a good film, unjustly neglected. And Belita deserves to be rediscovered before she skates off into the sunset: apart from being a genuine astonishing beauty, she can act, skate and give lip service in that most attractive slovenly way that saw Bacall snare Bogey. Belita can do that and skate too. What a doll! For fans of all things kitsch, the nightclub is the same one seen in 1980 in XANADU ooooooo-h-oooo.
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