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Nightmare Alley (1947)

Not Rated | | Drama, Film-Noir | 28 October 1947 (USA)
The rise and fall of Stanton Carlisle, a mentalist whose lies and deceit prove to be his downfall.

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Writers:

(screenplay), (novel)
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
Zeena Krumbein
...
Molly
...
Lilith Ritter
...
Ezra Grindle
...
Bruno
...
Pete Krumbein
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Storyline

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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

He was all things to all men ... but only one thing to all women!

Genres:

Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

28 October 1947 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Scharlatan  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The movie, as released, is cut. There were gruesome scenes of the geek, bloodied, and insanely ripping apart the chickens. One could only hope that these scenes would be restored, since the editing destroyed the continuity. See more »

Goofs

The recording machine that creates a major plot point is a Wilcox-Gay disc cutter that could record at 78 or 33 rpm on a maximum disk size of ten inches. It cut at a fixed 96 lines per inch. Unfortunatly those specs limited recording time to about 3 minutes at 78 rpm and only a bit more at 33. A real professional would have used something like a Presto which cut 12 inch discs or a broadcasting machine like a Scully that could cut 16 inch disks. Even the FBI used disk cutters in pairs so one could begin recording when the others had used up all its blank disk surface. A much more likely device would have been a wire recorder which despite its limited fidelity could record speech for an hour. These units were not cheap but Dr. Ritter was obviously wealthy. Her Wilcox-Gay recorder had a retail price at that time of about $100.00 and was among the lowest priced recorders sold. See more »

Quotes

Stanton Carlisle: Listen to me, I'm no good. I never pretended to be. But, I love you. I'm a hustler. I've always been one. But, I love you. I may be the thief of the world, but, with you I've always been on the level.
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Connections

Referenced in L.A. Noire (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

The Boston Burglar
(uncredited)
Traditional
Sung by George Beranger
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User Reviews

 
Among the Greatest of Films Noirs
12 March 2002 | by (Out there in the dark) – See all my reviews

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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