7.3/10
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39 user 28 critic

The Reckless Moment (1949)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir | November 1949 (USA)
After discovering the dead body of her teenage daughter's lover, a housewife takes desperate measures to protect her family from scandal.

Director:

(as Max Opuls)

Writers:

(screen play), (screen play) (as Robert W. Soderberg) | 3 more credits »
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Cast

Complete credited cast:
...
...
...
Beatrice 'Bea' Harper
...
Tom Harper
...
Ted Darby
David Bair ...
David Harper
...
Nagel
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Storyline

In the charming community of Balboa 50 miles from Los Angeles, middle-class housewife Lucia Harper travels to Los Angeles to meet scoundrel, Ted Darby. Her seventeen year-old daughter Beatrice is in love with Ted. He asks for money to leave Bea, but Lucia refuses to give any. Bea does not believe her mother when told and during the night she sneaks out to the boat garage to meet Ted who admits that Lucia told the truth. Bea pushes him and Ted falls to his on an anchor. The next morning, Lucia finds the body and assumes that Bea has killed her lover. She decides to get rid of the corpse and puts it in her boat and dumps it far from home. When the police find Ted, a stranger, Martin Donnelly, visits Lucia to blackmail her on behalf of his partner, Nagel who has several letters Bea had written to Ted. Donnelly wants $5000 for the letters. The desperate Lucia tries to raise the amount. Martin falls in love with Lucia and tries to help her too. The dangerous Nagel wants to receive the ... Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

A wild web of violence drew them irresistibly toward one another ! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama | Film-Noir

Certificate:

Approved | See all certifications »
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Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

November 1949 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Blank Wall  »

Box Office

Budget:

$882,653 (estimated)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
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Did You Know?

Trivia

James Mason said that when Columbia refused to director Max Ophüls the permission to light simultaneously two large and separate sets, to allow a long dolly shot from one place to the other, he thought that "Ophuls could not smile anymore from this day." See more »

Quotes

Lucia Harper: It was my way of doing something that made everything wrong!
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Far from Heaven (2002) See more »

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User Reviews

 
It was my way of doing something that made everything wrong!
26 January 2010 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

During an argument Bea Harper {Geraldine Brooks} strikes out at her unsavoury lover, Ted Darby {Shepperd Strudwick}, felling him with a blow that sends him tumbling to an accidental death. When her mother Lucia {Joan Bennett} finds the body she quickly hides the body out at sea to hopefully make things look better. But soon the menacing Martin Donnelly {James Mason} turns up with love letters that Bea had sent Ted and sets about blackmailing Lucia. But all is not going to be straight forward as Martin & Lucia are strangely drawn to each other.

The Reckless Moment is directed by Max Ophüls, it's adapted from a shorty story titled "The Blank Wall" and cinematography comes from Burnett Guffey. A tight enough picture technically, it is however something of let down considering the plot involves blackmail, murder, deception and sacrifice. Highly regarded by some notable critics, the film's strength, outside of the two excellent lead performances, comes by way of its flip-flop of the sexes plot. Reversing the roles of an innocent involved with a shady good for nothing gives the film a unique feel, but it also makes the film play as a melodrama as opposed to being a darkly noirish potboiler. Add in to the mix that Ophüls is content to go for emotion over criminal drama and it's an uneasy sit all told.

Where Ophüls does very well is with the distinction between Lucia's two differing worlds. She's from comfortable suburbia in Balboa, the epitome of contented respectability. But as she arrives in L.A. and does her "reckless moment," the landscape and tone changes. She herself significantly wears sunglasses at key moments and Messrs Ophüls & Guffey bring on the shadows and swirling cameras to portray the feeling of entrapment for our protagonists as they get deeper into it. The key scenes revolve around the Harper boathouse and the guys get maximum impact from this darkly lit venue. There's also some suggestion of manipulation that offers an intriguing train of thought, while the final shot begs to be given far more dissection than just seen as being a standard film closer.

Visually smart and acted accordingly, but not to my mind the nerve frayer that others have painted it as. 6/10


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