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.
The wife of a psycho-analyst falls prey to a devious quack hypnotist when he discovers she is an habitual shoplifter. Then one of his previous patients now being treated by the real doctor is found murdered, with her still at the scene, and suspicion points only one way. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Another complex, at times morally ambiguous film noir from Otto Preminger, engaging the services of top writer Ben Hecht and actors of the quality of Gene Tierney & Jose Ferrer to give it life. It's old ground of course for all of them, Preminger and Tierney had teamed up in "Laura" and, with Hecht were to do so again in the soon-come "Where the Sidewalk Ends" while Hecht had previously turned psychoanalysis to thrilling effect in Hitchcock's "Spellbound". There are certainly some typically subversive little Preminger / Hecht touches, I detect, of voyeurism and fetishism, running the film close, I would imagine, to the prevailing moral code of the day, which the former was to take on further in "The Moon Is Blue" and to some kind of apogee in "Anatomy Of A Murder" 10 years later. Look and listen closely here and you'll see the camera fading out a shot of Tierney's husband just about to disrobe his wife after she falls into a hypnotically induced deep-sleep and at another point the salacious quote addressed to Tierney by morally corrupt blackmailing hypnotist/astrologist (what a CV!) Ferrer about "undressing her scruples". I was even pulled up by the scenes of the blood-marks on the floor from Ferrer's character as something you didn't see everyday in the sanitised, Hollywood still coming to terms with the Communist witch-hunt in the post-war era. The playing is excellent, Tierney, who I've only just discovered as an actress (largely through watching old film-noirs!) is again radiantly beautiful as the ashamed kleptomaniac, desperate for a cure, but at the same time conveying her character's complexity and inner toughness as she finally breaks the hypnotic spell cast on her by Ferrer. For me, Ferrer steals the movie, making your skin crawl in every scene he plays once his perverted (in every sense of the word) designs become apparent. Their scenes together, where he can hardly conceal his lust for Tierney and desire to break up her happy home are electric and he also gets a lengthy scene where he hypnotises himself against the excruciating after-effects of his self-conducted gall-bladder operation. He completely convinces you of his strength of will over his physical pain to enable him to go after Tierney as she struggles to recover her amnesia which will of course expose his own guilt. The direction is taut, the cinematography excellent, the settings convincing and I also especially appreciated the excellent use of music to dramatise key scenes. Naturally there's a large degree of implausibility about just how Tierney finds herself under the control of such a toxic character and the denouement is perhaps more complicated and played out than it might be but this is still a highly intelligent, challenging piece of cinema, further pushing back the barriers of adult cinema in late 40's Hollywood.
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