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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
Alias Nick Beal (AKA: A few other titles...) is directed by John Farrow and adapted to screenplay by Jonathan Latimer from the Mindret Lord story. It stars Ray Milland, Audrey Totter, Thomas Mitchell and George Macready. Music is by Franz Waxman and cinematography by Lionel Lindon.
It's the Faustian legend filmed through film noir filters as Thomas Mitchell's politician unwittingly makes a deal with Ray Milland's suspicious Nick Beal.
Nicholas Beal - Agent.
It's all fogs, smogs and smoky pubs here, it's 1949 and John Farrow and his team are having a great time of things blending Faust with politico machinations. Narrative thrust comes by way of corruption and character disintegration, sprinkled naturally with your good old cinematic staple of good versus evil in bold type.
Don't touch him! He doesn't like it!
Milland is superb here, his Nick Beal is the ultimate Machiavellian Mannipulator, and the chief film makers really bring these traits to the fore. Beal is a bundle of smug grins and glinting eyes, he just appears in scenes, Farrow cunningly using various props and persons to suddenly unleash his little old devil when he is least expected. Around Nicky there are subtle changes of clothes and snatches of dialogue that hit the requisite devilish notes, Totter is our darling who is caught in Old Nick's trap, Mitchell (great) even more so.
The last time I was here was quite exciting. City was on fire. Picked up quite a lot of recruits that night. Made quite a transportation problem.
Lionel Lindon and Franz Waxman are also key components to what makes the pic work. Waxman (Sunset Blvd.) deftly shifts between big bass drums for thunder clap effects, to delicate swirls that give off other worldly - eerie - effects. Lindon (I Want to Live!) does great work isolating the eyes in light, while his fog and shadows work wouldn't be amiss in a Val Lewton picture.
This is a criminally under seen movie, it's far from perfect because the collage of genre influences give it a very unbalanced feel, but there's so much fun, spookiness and technical craft on show to make it a must see movie for fans of the stars, noir and supernatural tinged pictures. 8/10
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