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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
Noir set in world of ice follies or, The Big Freeze
Suspense doesn't promise to live up to its generic title until its last half-hour, when director Frank Tuttle (This Gun for Hire his only other noir) turns up the voltage and generates some, yes, real suspense. A Monogram release with a big budget (for Monogram), the movie casts the unlikely Belita an ice-skating 'novelty' star like Sonja Henie against Barry Sullivan; they would reunite the next year in The Gangster. Albert Dekker and Bonita Granville fill out the other principal roles.
Dekker's the impresario of The Ice Parade, a revue in which his wife Belita stars. A peanut vendor (Sullivan) offers a suggestion for sprucing up the act (a ring of swords through which Belita will jump) and gets offered in turn a management job. Dekker can't help but notice the sparks between his wife and his new hire, especially when Sullivan turns up uninvited at their mountain lodge. When they're off frolicking in the winterscape, he takes at shot a Sullivan but triggers an avalanche, which buries him.
Or does it? Back in her Los Angeles penthouse, Belita senses his presence. Sullivan, meanwhile, copes with another specter from his past Bonita Granville, whom he ditched in Chicago (he has an unsavory background which she threatens to divulge though never to us).
What with all this baggage, the romance sours, and Belita begins to suspect Sullivan of having killed Dekker, if in fact he's still among the living....
With Suspense, you have to take the bad with the good. The skating numbers, while eye-popping (a left-handed compliment), bring the action to a halt every quarter-hour or so. On the other hand, Tuttle anticipates by a year Anthony Mann's basement light in Desperate, swinging like a pendulum from glare to shadow. Still, he plays fast and loose with a key plot point Dekker's reemergence. The dance of the seven veils he performs adds a supernatural touch to the spooky atmosphere, but it falls short of success: there's information missing that by every right ought to be included.
One last note: Suspense marks the last movie, out of well over two hundred, for portly, bassoon-voiced Eugene Palette, a welcome and all but unavoidable presence through the 1930s and early 1940s. In this, his swan song, he shows himself once more to be every pound the pro.
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