A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence.
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, returns home to find his father murdered by Claudius, Hamlet's uncle. Claudius usurps the throne of Denmark, and marries Hamlet's recently widowed mother. Hamlet is tormented, haunted, and increasingly unstable.
Righteous district attorney Joseph Foster's main goal in life is to rid his city of the gangsters infesting it. In order to be even more efficient in his war against crime he plans to run for governor. One day he meets a strange, shadowy man, Nick Beal, who offers to help him to achieve his end. Beal convinces hesitating Foster by dint of easy money, easy sex with an alluring young woman and the promise of easy success. Joseph Foster soon becomes an influential politician but a corrupt one. A minister of God manages to show him that he has been the plaything of the so-called Nick Beal, who might be "Old Nick" , that is to say Satan himself. Foster then decides to resign and to become an honest man again. Written by
I had long wanted to check out this modern Americanization of the "Faust" legend and, at the same time, wondered at its apparent neglect over the years. Having done so now, I am honestly baffled by this as the film is superb in every respect keeping also in mind that there are at least three other classic cinematic versions of its prototype i.e. F.W. Murnau's Silent FAUST (1926; which retains the original setting and period), William Dieterle's THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER aka ALL THAT MONEY CAN BUY (1941; superbly rendered in terms of Americana http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0033532/usercomments-20) and Rene' Clair's LA BEAUTE' DU DIABLE (1950; with the narrative, of course, re-set to France http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042235/usercomments-4). By the way, I purposely picked my birthday (17th August) to catch up with ALIAS NICK BEAL since I was to watch yet another variation on the theme HAMMERSMITH IS OUT (1972), starring Richard Burton anyway, as part of my ongoing tribute to that renowned thespian on the 25th anniversary of his passing! To begin with, the acting is impeccable: Ray Milland, at once charming and sinister in the title role who, not only has the penchant of never being seen entering or exiting a room but just suddenly be there Mrs. Danvers-style, but is also so evil that he threatens to blackmail the Faust character here soon after having opened the road to success for him!; Thomas Mitchell, reliable but at the same time a symbol of integrity, is actually the one to take the spotlight throughout; and Audrey Totter, the tramp with ambitions above her station who eventually reforms thanks to her proverbial heart of gold but we also get George Macready and Fred Clark effectively cast against type as reverend and racketeer respectively! The eerie supernatural elements, then, are remarkably rendered without the use of special effects (complemented by noir-ish cinematography and an emphatic score). Among the most memorable moments we find Milland afraid of being touched and even more so of the Holy Scriptures (reprised in the film's splendid climax); the uncanny chat between Totter and Mitchell 'rehearsed' verbatim beforehand with Milland (incidentally, the blooming relationship between Mitchell and Totter is subtly mirrored in the scenes depicting Mitchell's growing estrangement from his wife); and Totter's drunken exchange with a bartender before she is picked up by Milland. The political element within the film is more of the idealistic Frank Capra variety (of which Mitchell himself was a stock performer) than the 'mature' level of the contemporaneous ALL THE KING'S MEN (1949) although, watching this, I was immediately reminded of Raoul Walsh's James Cagney vehicle A LION IS IN THE STREETS (1953) which I only caught last month (in a retrospective of that star's work honoring the 110th anniversary of his birth). In conclusion, I would like to point out that director Farrow was an underrated film-maker from Hollywood's Golden Age and this is undoubtedly his most accomplished effort.
P.S. Watching the not dissimilar THE SOUL OF A MONSTER (1944) also with Macready as part of the Halloween challenge, I was inspired to finally complete my review of this film
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