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The ambitious Stanton "Stan" Carlisle works in a sideshow as carny and assistant of the mentalist Zeena Krumbein, who is married with the alcoholic Pete. The couple had developed a secret code to pretend to read minds and was successful in the show business before Pete starts drinking. Stan stays with them expecting to learn their code and leave the carnival to be a successful mentalist. Stan also flirts with the gorgeous Molly that lives in the carnival with the strong Bruno. Zeena and The Savage, an alcoholic man that eats live chickens that the audiences believe that is a savage, are the greatest attractions of the sideshow. When Stan gives booze to Pete and he dies, Stan finds that Pete had drunk methyl alcohol and not his booze, but he feels guilty for the death of him. Zeena teaches the code to him and Molly helps Stan to learn them. After an incident, Stan is forced to marry Molly and he decides to move to Chicago with her to become a sensation in a night club. One day, he ... Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The telephone numbers of the Helen Walker character, Consulting Psychologist Lilith Ritter, are STAte 9862 (for her Office in the Lakeshore Building) and ROGrs Pk 8685 (for her Residence in the Belmont Apartments), both adjacent to the Lake Michigan waterfront on the near north side of Chicago. See more »
During Powers's cab ride away from Walker's apartment, the Chicago Theater is visible in the rear-projection behind the car. After several more minutes of driving, the cab turns around in front of the same theater. See more »
Hoatley - First Carnival Owner:
Now this creature - There he is, THE GEEK! He has puzzled the foremost scientists of Europe and America. Is he the missing link? Is he man or beast? Some have pronounced him man. But beneath that shaggy mane of hair lies the brain of a beast.
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NIGHTMARE ALLEY works like a gigantic fate-driven machine. We see the main character, Stanton Carlyle (memorably enacted by Tyrone Power whose physical beauty underlines his tragic persona) become caught up in the cogs of this machine early on, when he gets the idea of taking over the mind-reading act. Henceforward, it's a dark, descending spiral. A fascinating spiral, since it appears to be going upward at first. Power and the beautiful Colleen Gray enter in to the venues of the ultra-rich with their glorified carnival act. Then Gray and and earlier amanuensis Joan Blondell are supplanted by the controlled, mysterious Helen Walker (in a knockout performance). What is so intriguing now, is how Carlyle begins to believe in his own manufactured powers. Thinking himself in control of the cynical ploy concocted by himself and Walker, Carlyle is tossed into a pit of dejection and humiliation, when Gray foils the scheme. Back on the carnival skids--but this time far lower than he was before--Carlyle can find only the possibility of redemption in Gray's embrace.
It is tempting to wish the film would end with Gray turning away from the horrific spectacle of the new geek. For this would be the darkest of noir conclusions. I seem to remember the studio (Fox) insisting on the glimmer of hope on Power's face.
Its conclusion aside, the film impresses in its use of expressionistic lighting, set design and music to create a feeling of inescapable, malevolent force driving Stanton Carlyle to ultimate degradation. This is a film in which no production element seems wasted. It's almost too good be be true, an ideal 'dark film', grotesque, yet hauntingly beautiful.
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