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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
The Faust legend gets yet another retelling in modern post war America with Thomas Mitchell as an honest District Attorney looking for evidence to convict a racketeer. A conviction in this case will propel him to higher office.
Into the story walks a gentleman named Nicholas Beal played with intensity by Ray Milland. The account books supposedly destroyed Milland says he can produce and produce them he does. Of course Mitchell is grateful and Milland becomes part of his inner circle.
With Mitchell now being talked about for the governorship, Milland incurs the mistrust of all around him including Mitchell's wife Geraldine Wall and the Reverend George MacReady. MacReady who himself has played many a sinister character on the big and small screen knows sinister when he sees it. In fact he's the first to recognize Milland for what he is.
When a man's influence doesn't work Milland plants Audrey Totter in Mitchell's circle. This is a whole lot like the way Ray Walston used Gwen Verdon to get at Tab Hunter in Damn Yankees. Only this is far more serious.
Ray Milland who before The Lost Weekend played all kinds of light parts was now getting heavier dramatic fare in his career and handling it most successfully. He's probably at his most menacing on the screen in Alias Nick Beal.
As for Mitchell for once he didn't die on the screen. Years ago I had a teacher who said that Thomas Mitchell had to have the record for screen deaths in major motion pictures. Although I can think of a few in addition to this one like Stagecoach and It's A Wonderful Life where he lived until the final end credits, I think the man that taught me might have had something. Mitchell is fine as a man desperately trying to do the right thing and having to contend with his own ambitions at the same time.
Paramount normally did not go in for noir films, but in this case they produced one with classic satanic overtones. In the end Milland makes a rather interesting confession as the film ends. It explains his attitude and his character.
I'd make it a point to check it out.
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