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On trial for murder, Larry Ballantyne regurgitates an unbelievable story. He recounts how he philanders to other women while his rich loving wife Gretta tries to keep him in line. According to Larry, his girlfriend Verna dies accidentally in a car crash and his distraught wife tosses herself over a cliff after he runs out on her. The jury has a tough decision on this one. Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
Intricately plotted noir with one too many surprises for my book, but is still underrated. Nice guy Robert Young gets to break character and play a real heel for a change. He's not wicked, just weak, following his wife around because that's where the money is. He's about as faithful as a Tom cat in heat, but she's too dependent to care. Even his one noble gesture ends in a fiery crash.
Young looks the part of a married gigolo, all slicked down in fancy suits, sipping martinis in upscale bars. But then who could resist that luscious package Susan Hayward even if she is just an office girl with scheming ambition. Their gambits of conversation amount to little gems of carnal aggression. Pity poor wife Rita Johnson who's all business-like competence, but can hardly compete in the glamor department with either Hayward or the sultry Greer. The faithful stallion is, I guess, her consolation prize and an excellent touch. He's like the eye of fate watching from above the mountain pool in a meaningful moment that foreshadows the reckoning yet to come.
In passing-- I can't help noticing the true-love embrace of Hayward and Young washed clean now in the mountain lake and the similarly meaningful ocean scene of Garfield and Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice. The aftermaths look also suspiciously similar. Postman came out about six months earlier than this one, so draw your own conclusions.
Too bad director Pichel adds so little to the screenplay. Indeed, the story's strong enough to carry interest; still, he films in straightforward, unimaginative fashion. The cross-currents and conflicts, however, cry out for a stronger expressionistic approach, especially the waterfall and pool scenes. A better noir director like Siodmak or Lang could have deepened the visuals to complement the strong screenplay. Also, someone muffs the staging of the very last scene which comes across as incredible given the crowded courtroom and police guards. It also distracts from an interesting ambiguity-- is Young too weak to face a verdict or has he simply passed judgement on himself.
For those of us who remember the wholesome TV series Father Knows Best, seeing Young here takes some getting used to.
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