Because aging boxer Bill Thompson always lost his past fights, his corrupt manager, without telling Thompson, takes bribes from a betting gangster, to ensure Thompson's pre-arranged dive-loss in the next match.
A police lt. is ordered to stop investigating deadly crime boss Mr. Brown, because he hasn't been able to get any hard evidence against him. He then goes after Brown's girlfriend who despises him, for information instead.
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
At one point, 'Stan' offers 'Bruno' a cigar. The name on the box is La Unica, a well-known Cuban-made brand at the time. The brand still exists, but the cigars are now made in the Dominican Republic with Dominican and Connecticut-grown tobacco leaves. 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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It is totally amazing, nearly 60 years later, to realize the lengths that 20th Century Fox went to in order to keep Tyrone Power a handsome leading man rather than letting him show his stuff. It's no wonder Fox came to disgrace during the Cleopatra era. Pity it didn't happen earlier so Power had more opportunities to show his acting range.
Nightmare Alley was a favorite of mine from the time I was a teenager -a film Power fought to make and one that the studio never publicized and released as a B film. Spiteful bunch, considering the money he had made for them! Power, Blondell, Gray, Helen Walker, and the marvelous Ian Keith turn in great performances in a gritty film somewhat ahead of its time for its unrelenting toughness, its hard view of alcoholism, a look inside the world of mentalists and carnival life, and its theme of the supernatural. It is reminiscent of "Ace in the Hole" and some of the later, cynical Wilder films.
Power was one of those actors whose drop dead gorgeous appearance kept him from some excellent roles, thanks to his studio. He sometimes could appear rigid (though not in this film) but someone I knew saw him in a Broadway play and said it was like being alone in a room with him, he had such magnetism. We have so few examples of his really great work - the recording of John Brown's Body is one, this film is another - it's great that it's now out on DVD and available to the public.
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