Wilma Tuttle, psychology professor, lets aggressively brash student Bill Perry drive her home. Big mistake. After an attempted rape, Perry is dead; panicked, Wilma hides her traces and flees. As time passes, she watches the investigations of Homicide Lt. Dorgan with painfully concealed apprehension. Complicating matters: her budding romance with Warren Ford, Perry's guardian. How long can she stand the strain? Written by
Rod Crawford <email@example.com>
Structural flaws mar suspense in Loretta Young vehicle
The twist on what we now call sexual harassment lingers as the most interesting aspect of The Accused, an innocuous suspense story with some effective moments. Another lingering aftertaste is the midcentury stereotype of the female academic that's foisted on star Loretta Young -- and the viewer.
Psychology professor Young (!), guarded and old-maidish (she's even saddled with the glamourproof name Wilma Tuttle), becomes the object of the unhealthy attentions of one of her students (Douglas Dick). On the pretext of diving for abalone shells off Malibu, he spirits her off to a secluded lover's lane one night and forces himself on her. She bashes in his skull and fakes his death to look accidental.
Then she begins to attract more attention -- from Robert Cummings, a lawyer friend of the dead boy's family (he falls for her), and Wendell Corey, a dogged homicide cop. In the acting department, there's no contest; Cummings stays his usual namby-pamby self, while Corey delivers a strong, unsentimental performance, among his best.
Much of William Dieterle's direction shows a practiced hand. Especially well handled are the opening sequence of Young fleeing the crime scene, a boxing match where she suffers a flashback, and the ghoulish reconstructions of the murder by forensic pathologist Sam Jaffe.
But a glaring structural flaw keeps The Accused lukewarm. We know from the outset that Young acted in self-defense, which pretty well leeches all the suspense out of Corey's implacable pursuit; the tightening case against her packs no impact because it's safe to assume she won't be spending any time with those harpies from Caged. Consequently the film focuses more on her emergence from a cocoon of droopy skirts, a bun in her hair, sleeping pills and swooning spells into a seductive butterfly flitting into Cummings' net.
Dick, as the young narcissist, calls to mind such amoral charmers as Robert Walker in Strangers On A Train and John Dall in Rope (a film in which Dick also appeared). It's he -- not young nor Cummings -- who supplies what faint erotic spark this movie, about a sexually-based murder, dares to kindle.
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