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gripping suspense thriller
claudecat29 January 2003
I was lucky enough to see this movie on the big screen, with a full house, and it was a wonderful experience. The audience was completely enthralled, to the point of yelling out worried instructions to the onscreen characters. The acting in this film is very high-quality, and the pacing effective. I thought the footage of San Francisco (where I saw the film) was beautifully done; it really evokes the Telegraph Hill area. The director made particularly good use of the hills, as you'll see. If you like elegant suspense films like "Gaslight" and "Suspicion", you'll enjoy this one. Valentina Cortese is a very appealing heroine, and the story was made more interesting by the WWII element. The only thing I had a problem with was the fact that the two leading men looked too much alike. But that was a minor flaw in a very well-made film.
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The talented Mrs Kowelska
dbdumonteil23 September 2010
This movie begins a little like William Irish's aka Cornell Woolrich's " I married a dead man " (the novel was released well before Leisen's movie ,in 1948),the concentration camps replacing the derailment:and then a poor girl becomes an impostor in a wealthy family;then after introducing a Rebeccaesque governess,the story takes a divergent turn ,recalling sometimes "gaslight" "suspicion" (the glass of orange juice replacing the glass of milk) and "sudden fear" which would be released the following year.

That said,the movie is good,suspenseful,sometimes excellent and shows how great Robert Wise is as a director when he creates a disturbing atmosphere in an old house;he would take his skill to its absolute perfection with "the haunting" (1963) IMHO the best movie ever made about a haunted house (the remake should be carefully avoided);his talent emerges here and there: the playhouse where a wall is missing,the branch behind the curtain,the shadow on Valentina Cortese's white dress in the garage and the picture of the late old lady who seems like a judge beyond the grave ;her expressive face seems to have changed in the last pictures .Best performance comes from Richard Baseheart who shines in his last minutes on screen and the rest of the cast rises to the occasion.
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Reality within the movie
alexbotkin3 November 2003
About 10-15 minutes into the film there is a segment showing emmigrants filing into a ship to leave to America.

My parents (unknown to them until two years later) got their 15 seconds of fame. They're the man carrying an infant (me, face down-I wasn't ready for my cameo) and the woman with glasses carying two suitcases.

The ship was the SS Marine-Jumper (pretty odd name) which left Hamburg, and it arrived in New York on July 7th 1949.

The crossing was uneventful except that my mother told me she was angry with the sailors for playing catch with an orange. She hadn't eaten one since 1940.
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very effective b/w thriller with great use of San Francisco locations
christopher-underwood29 July 2008
Perhaps not a noir, strictly but a very effective b/w thriller with great use of San Francisco locations. Valentina Cortesa is excellent and very believable as the lady who makes her way from the concentration camps to the house on Telegraph Hill. Richard Basehart is also very good in a complex role as her husband. But mention must also be made of William Lundigan and the terrifying Fay Baker. Even the kid is acceptable! This is a most involving and atmospheric picture, perhaps with shades of 'Notorious'. Great dialogue helps keep one involved throughout and there are certain scenes, for instance, the orange juice sequence that are positively thrilling. Excellent.
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Enjoyable Thriller of Greed
Claudio Carvalho13 December 2014
In the Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp, the Polish Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortesa) has lost her husband and family in the war. She befriends her fellow citizen Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess), who miss her son Chris (Gordon Gebert) that lives with her Aunt Sophie in San Francisco. Karin dies three days before the liberation forces commanded by Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan) arrive at the camp and Victoria assumes the identity of her friend to emigrate to the United States. However, she is informed that Aunt Sophie has just died and she stays in a camp for survivors.

Four years later, she succeeds to go to the United States and meets Sophie's lawyer. She learns that Alan Spender (Richard Basehart) was assigned Chris' trustee and he invites her to travel with him to San Francisco to see Chris. Along their journey, they get married to each other and Karin has a cold reception from the housekeeper Margaret (Fay Baker) that raises Chris at the mansion on Telegraph Hill. Karin meets Major Bennett, who is a friend of Alan, in a party at home and she befriends him. Soon Karin is connected to Chris, but when she has a car accident, she suspects that Alan wants to kill Chris and her to keep the money for him. Is she paranoid?

"The House on Telegraph Hill" is an enjoyable thriller with a story of greed. The movie has an impressive scene when Victoria's car loses the break on the hills of San Francisco. The mystery is kept to the end when the truth is shown. The Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp is the place where Anne Frank died. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Terrível Suspeita" ("Terrible Suspicion")
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Okay suspenseful drama
blanche-230 June 2008
Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart star in "The House on Telegraph Hill," a 1951 film also starring William Lundigan. It's probable that Cortese and Basehart met during the filming of this movie, since they were married in March of 1951. Cortese plays a concentration camp survivor, Victoria Kowelska, who takes the identity of her dead friend and travels to San Francisco to claim the woman's son, who is living with an aunt, and also her inheritance. When she arrives, the aunt is deceased,and the boy is being cared for by a snippy nanny (Fay Baker). Victoria and the estate's trustee (Basehart) fall in love, marry, and live in the aunt's mansion. It soon becomes apparent from a series of mishaps that someone is trying to do away with Victoria. She finally confides in the Army officer who processed her papers (Lundigan).

Robert Wise does a good job with this suspenser, which combines some diverse elements - hidden identity, romance, shady nanny and a murder plot - though the script isn't the best. It drags in spots. Cortese is an effective actress while not being a conventional beauty; her star shone brighter in Italy, where she worked until 1993 and then retired.

"The House on Telegraph Hill" does hold the viewer throughout. It's enjoyable but nothing special.
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Worried about the past and worried about the future
Kevin Lynch4 December 2001
A woman (Valentina Cortesa) assumes the identity of her more affluent friend who died at the Belsen camp in Germany. However the seemingly ideal life she is about to enter soon beings to have a sinister feel. Is she the only fraud? Reasonable performances from all the leads keeps the storyline, which never quite reaches its potential, interesting. The film also lead to the marriage of Valentina Cortesa to her co-star Richard Basehart - a chemistry not readily apparent in the film!
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Wise helms effective, if slightly dated, women-in-distress suspenser
bmacv5 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Contains Spoilers.

The House on Telegraph Hill is a suspense thriller constructed out of some unusual elements. It opens in the shambles of war-torn Europe, where a Displaced Person from Poland (Valentina Cortesa, sometimes "Cortese") has assumed the papers and identity of a close friend who died in the camps. The dead woman had sent her young son to San Francisco to live with a wealthy aunt. Cortesa travels to America to claim the son – and, incidentally, the inheritance – as her own.

The estate's trustee (Richard Basehart) sweeps her off her feet and soon they're ensconced in the Gothic pile overlooking San Francisco and the Bay. But – shades of Rebecca! – discord appears in the person of the boy's governess (Fay Baker), a blonde, American Mrs. Danvers (Baker played a hard case opposite Marie Windsor in Double Deal and quite held her own; pity her career wasn't bigger).

Next, frightening things start to happen. Cortesa almost topples to her doom from the son's playhouse, never repaired after a mysterious explosion. And she almost careens into that same doom when her roadster's brakes fail on the steep hills of the city. Finally she reaches out to a acquaintance (William Lundigan) who happens to be the Army officer who processed her papers in Germany.

The surprising Robert Wise has a knack for papering over holes, keeping us from wondering what the one plot – the stolen identity – has to do with the other – the standard-issue woman-in-distress (or `jep'). He builds up an atmosphere of menace but keeps his cards very close to his vest.

Reservations? The House on Telegraph Hill was made when the noir cycle was under full steam, and shares many of its conventions. But the story and acting hark back to a style that's about a decade out of date. So when Cortesa declines some orange juice that she suspects contains poison, the point is pressed, and she graciously downs the whole glass. In post-war America, wouldn't she fling it into a face, or just say `Shove it'?
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Good Gothic Thriller
dougdoepke28 February 2012
Effective Gothic thriller. I especially like the set-up, where Vicki (Cortese) gains admittance to the US by impersonating a dead fellow prisoner in a WWII concentration camp . That way she not only has her own secrets, but is also no unblemished young thing, which is usually the case in these woman-in-danger films. Once in the US, however, she marries into great wealth—a dream come true—but in the process gets more than she bargained for.

A lot of the story depends on appropriate emoting. Fortunately, it's a powerhouse cast, but I especially like Fay Baker's icy nanny Margaret. She's quietly intimidating without overdoing it. Too bad she didn't get bigger roles in more movies. I can't help noting, however, that Cortese may be the only Hollywood leading lady without a perfect nose. It's a fine regal beak and I'm glad she hung on to it. I can also see why Basehart fell for her in real life.

The San Francisco locations make a good open air contrast to the dark mansion interiors that dominate the characters. I expect director Wise applied his noir skills from the great Val Lewton series of horror flicks. Also, the ending amounts to a delicious twist, both unpredictable and very well thought out. My one problem was figuring out who's related to whom since that's important to the plot. I don't know if that's the screenplay's fault or mine.

Anyway, it's an effective thriller with a fine cast and an imaginative ending, worth tuning in for.
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Robert Wise At His Best In an Excellent Noir Thriller!
JohnHowardReid30 September 2008
Warning: Spoilers
A most interesting movie in the Fox film noir range is House on Telegraph Hill. It's especially pleasing to see this title made available, not only because it undoubtedly rates as a true film noir, but it's one that fully deserves to be better known. I don't recall seeing it before at all, either on first release or TV. Released on 13 May 1951 (21 September 1951 in Australia), the movie's box office potential was hampered by its cast. Undoubtedly a fine actor, Richard Basehart was never a must-see draw at the neighborhoods. For this movie, he managed to persuade Fox to hire his wife, Valentina Cortese, for the main role. She also was a brilliant actress but at this stage, no ticket-window sensation either.

Thus the ticket-selling brief was borne chiefly by William Lundigan, a competent player within a very limited range. I always thought he had little charisma, but there were fans who liked him. Not a sufficient number, however, to make House on Telegraph Hill a rousing success. Which was a shame, because House is a very deft noir thriller, with atmospheric photography by Lucien Ballard and excellent, moodily over-plush art direction from John De Cuir and set decorator, Paul Fox. True, Ballard does not photograph Miss Cortesa very attractively, but her stunning Renie costumes help to disguise this problem. Lovely Fay Baker brings considerable presence to the support cast. And I enjoyed the brief café glimpse of Chinese singer, Mari Young, who renders the opera ballad, "Lover's Broken Dream", accompanied by Gew Wong on the butterfly harp, Lung Wong (Chinese banjo) and Lee Wong (two-string violin).

In short, House on Telegraph Hill fulfills two essential noir requirements: (1) The prevailing mood, both photographically and story-wise is dark; (2) the central character is not only threatened and in danger, but finds herself in a situation from which it seems impossible to escape.
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A Few New Twists, But Basically A Familiar Screen Story
ccthemovieman-114 June 2008
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this kind of story many times: the frightened wife fearing her husband was going to kill her, most people not believing this, and a dramatic ending in the final minutes after long, drawn-out scenes building suspense. For you classic film buffs, this should sound familiar.

The problem is that - at least with today's audiences - that drawn-out suspense on will-or-will-he and how? - the story is way too slow. It's like, "Okay, we get the setup here. Now how about something actually happening?" Nothing much did until the final minutes, with the exception of a very short automobile scene.

The first part is the most interesting, when we see how the "heroine" of the story, "Victoria Kowelska" (Valentina Cortese) makes it to America to take the place of another woman in San Francisco. She was interesting, to me, only because she was a new face, sometime I don't recall seeing before on film. Most of her fine film career has been done in Italy.

I did enjoy the two main male actors, too, Richard Basehart and William Lundigan, but they were nothing super, playing routine roles. The set designs with the big house on Telegraph Road were nice. It was another of those big old mansions in which these kind of stories always took place in the 1940s films. Great lighting always makes these houses, with the long stairways, look Gothic and foreboding, especially in black-and-white photography.

For those who see the title and read the "previews" and thus, are excepting more of a film noir, or even a thriller with horror overtones, consider yourself warned. Instead, it's more of a women's film and a stereotypical one, at that. It's okay, but nothing memorable.
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Robert Wise scores again
bensonmum216 March 2006
Warning: Spoilers
The House on Telegraph Hill is a wonderfully entertaining thriller dealing with a woman living under an assumed identity and the child she claims as her own. The movie may be part of Fox's Film Noir Collection, but it's really more of a Hitchcock "woman-in-peril" type film. The movie may seem unusual when seen today with the modern emphasis on the plot twist. Throughout most of the film, I kept waiting for the inevitable twist that never materialized. The lack of a twist each time I thought I saw one coming was, in its own way, the best twist of all. The House on Telegraph Hill is deliberately paced and shot beautifully by Robert Wise. Some of the interior scenes, especially those in the hallway of the old house, look as good as you'll see. The acting is great with the relative unknown (at least unknown to me) Valentina Cortese giving a real standout performance. She has an undeniable screen presence and the ability to draw a viewer in. I really felt for her character's situation throughout the movie. The ending of the film is very nicely done and had me on the edge of my seat. As I was waiting for a twist, I was completely surprised by the final act. The drama and suspense are almost palatable throughout the film's finale. Overall, The House on Telegraph Hill is a very nice, under-seen film.
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concentration camp survivor inherits a mansion
RanchoTuVu2 February 2015
A young woman who survives the concentration camp at Bergen Belsen (Valentina Cortese) assumes the identity of her friend, who died at the camp, and through the new identity inherits a mansion in San Francisco on Telegraph Hill. Thus the woman escapes the poverty of post World War II Europe but enters into a nasty and ongoing dangerous battle over control of wealth and property in San Francisco. The woman-in- distress story has Cortese marrying Richard Basehart, who manipulates everything as a means of climbing up the ladder of wealth and position which he feels he's entitled to and Cortese is potentially depriving him of. Her gradual awareness of Basehart's character are the primary focus of this movie. Also in the mix is the young son of her deceased friend and the friend's great aunt, who left the mansion to her. The photography by Lucien Ballard is terrific throughout, especially the close-ups of Basehart. The film features hilly San Francisco prominently in several location shots, but the best parts take place within the mansion and in its backyard and the dilapidated shed that's built over a cliff. Basehart, who had done an excellent turn as a ruthless techno-savvy killer in He Walked By Night (1948) carried that menace into this movie quite well.
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Not A Ghost Story.
AaronCapenBanner15 November 2013
Robert Wise directed this drama(not a haunted house thriller!) that stars Valentina Cortesa as Victoria Kowelska , a Nazi concentration camp survivor who swaps identities with her deceased friend in order to escape her dire situation. She eventually ends up in San Francisco, at the woman's home, trying to bond with the son, who is now in the custody of Alan Spender(played by Richard Basehart) with whom she falls in love. Sadly, he isn't all he seems either, and circumstances force a fateful confrontation where all secrets will be revealed. Interesting film with a compelling(if contrived) plot, and most appealing San Francisco locations, especially the beautiful title house.
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Duplicity meets duplicity in this curiously twisted tale
secondtake16 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)

A very solid movie with a bit of a forced hand, and something like a familiar plot in new clothes. The key innovation is that it ties the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp to a conventional American melodrama, and has the lead woman taking on the identity of her best friend in the camps. It is filmed with precision and drama all the way through, and makes a visually strong statement, as well as one with the social message that the adjustments of Nazi victims and their survivors is really hard to fathom. It kludges along a little with a narrative fix to make the information clear and fast at the start, and get us to San Francisco, 1950.

The leading character, played by Italian actress Valentina Cortese (though she might well be intended to be a Polish Jew, given her situation in the camp), is very strong, a somewhat awkward leading woman but different than some of the types populating post-war movies. I liked her increasingly, and her difference (as an actress) helps cement her difference (as a character) from her American friends. She deserves our sympathy, and overall she gets it.

Oddly, that element of surviving a death camp six years after the liberation of a string of them in Europe from the Nazis, becomes less and less salient, so that when the woman's duplicity is brought up toward the end, the growing male protagonist brushes it off as just one of those things. He's right, really, but the fact that the woman returns and has to pretend to be a young boy's real mother is tough going, if you consider something like the truth of it. It's convenient that the surrogate mother figure, who has apparently done a pretty good job raising the kid, is also a meanie in good Hollywood caricaturing style. The other man in the story, the one who you expect to be on our leading lady's side, turns out to be weak, duplicitous, and a bit of pretty wash by the end.

Robert Wise is one of those smart directors who seems to make something unique happen no matter what the material. And the odd angles to this story, even with the inevitable outcome, make it really good.
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Woman in Jeopardy.
Robert J. Maxwell27 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Valentina Cortese has an interesting face rather than a conventionally beautiful one. Startling eyes -- the right eye looks straight ahead while the left is canted somewhat outward, lending her every expression a kind of fey quality. From most angles her big features are full of bone structure, dominated by an aquiline nose, compellingly ordinary. She has the overall appearance of a northern Italian paisana from the Po Valley. She could be stomping on bitter rice next to Sylvana Mangano.

In this film, Cortese is an inmate at Bergen-Belsen and adopts the identity of a friend who dies. Not that this makes any difference in the rest of the story. She might as well be who she claims to be.

Anyway, with her new identity, she returns to a Gothic house on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco that she has inherited from a deceased aunt. Her young son -- or rather the son of her dead friend -- lives there with his guardian (Richard Basehart) and a strangely distant maid servant (Fay Baker). She and Basehart, after a too-quick romance, have been married, but the moment they move into this cockeyed American Gothic house things seem askew.

Basehart has the difficult job of projecting politeness and caring towards his wife without even the underlying hint of warmth. And Margaret, the icy maid, seems to have wandered in from "Rebecca." The only person Cortese can depend on for honesty and confidence is William Lundigan, in the Kent Smith role.

In fact, everybody and everything seems to have wandered into this rather unfocused romantic drama from someplace else. The young kid has a playhouse in the back yard, bigger than the domicile I now occupy. It has a hole in the floor and wall and there is a scene in which Cortese, snooping around as usual, almost falls through to the street half a mile below when she is surprised by the ominous Basehart. I thought surely the climactic scene will involve that dangerous hole, but no. It's never seen again, thrown in willy nilly like so many other adventitious elements. The whole production is a patch work of vague threats, all seen from the point of view of the uncertain and perhaps imbalanced Valentina Cortese.

I didn't much care for it. Not so much because it's a mixture of romance, mystery, and drama in which everyone seems to be scuttling around behind everyone else's back, but because little of it seems to hang together. Pretty thoughtless.

Others might enjoy it more than I did.
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This is the House on Telegraph Hill, where I once thought I'd find peace and contentment.
Spikeopath10 February 2011
The House on Telegraph Hill is directed by Robert Wise and adapted for the screen by Elick Moll & Frank Partos from the novel The Frightened Child written by Dana Lyon. It stars Richard Baseheart, Valentina Cortese, William Lundigan & Fay Baker. Filmed on location primarily in the Telegraph Hill area of San Francisco, the film features photography by Lucien Ballard and a musical score directed by Alfred Newman.

Victoria Kowelska (Cortese) survives Belsen, but with her family killed by the Nazis she is all alone in the world with no identity. With her Belsen friend Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess) not surviving till liberation, Victoria decides to take on Karin's identity to get to America. Under the guise of being Karin, Victoria winds up in San Francisco, living in a prime mansion, married to Dernakova trustee Alan Spender (Baseheart), mother to young Chris (Gordon Gebert) and heiress to the family fortune. But the House on Telegraph Hill is home to many secrets and unanswered questions: Can Alan be trusted? Why is Margaret (Baker) the housekeeper cold towards her? What really brought about the death of the recently deceased aunt? And can she even trust her only real friend, Major Marc Bennett (Lundigan)?

Director Robert Wise was one of the most versatile men to have ever worked in cinema . He pretty much covered all genres in his long and distinguished career, here for The House on Telegraph Hill, he blends Gothic melodrama with film noir leanings. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Wheeler, DeCuir, Little & Fox), the film is certainly a lavish enough production, and for sure the story is well elaborated, but the picture as a whole is not all that it can be. For although it's rich with an eerie ambiance that's occasionally punctured by the promise of some sinister intervention, it never delivers on its promises. The suggestions and heightened tensions grab the attention, but the screenplay doesn't allow the woman in danger scenario room to grow. None of which is helped by the fact that the film opens with Victoria narrating her flashback in past-tense voice over! It's hardly a smart move by the makers that, is it? Perhaps it's wrong to judge it as being part of the group that contains, Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Gaslight (1940/1944) and The Spiral Staircase (1946)? But fact remains it's a long way from being half as good as any of those films.

However, there is still enough in Wise's film to keep it above average and make it a safe recommendation to fans of the "woman-in-mansion-in-peril" sub-genre. The story is well played by the principal actors. Baseheart has to play his cards close to his chest in the tricky role that requires him to keep us guessing as to if he is good or bad. That he offers no clues is testament to the good performance Baseheart gives. Italian actress Cortese binds the film together with a layered performance that contains excellent visual acting, where nervous smiles and saddened eyes tell of guilt and longing that the screenplay has sadly not let the character expand upon. Baker is a touch underwritten, but does a neat line in icy cold veneer, while Lundigan offers up a nice counterpoint as the other man in Victoria's life. Having Lucien Ballard on cinematography is a good move. Be it capturing the expansive colour vistas for Budd Boetticher & Sam Peckinpah in Westerns, or shooting in atmospherically stark black & white for the likes of John Brahm & Jacques Tourneur, Ballard showed himself to be a master photographer. Here in the brooding Dernakova mansion he deals in shadows and low lights to great tonal effect. Alfred Newman's (a record 9 time Academy Award winner) score, aided by Sol Kaplan, is very dramatic and flows freely around the house and is at one with Victoria's various emotional states.

The House on Telegraph Hill contains menacing undertones that are boosted by camera, music and acting. If only the writing was in tune with those things then we would be talking about a classic of its type. 6.5/10
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Disappointing, given the subject and cast
David (Handlinghandel)2 January 2008
This is a women's picture masquerading as a film noir. It does have dark overtones but in many ways it resembles standard fare of earlier decades. Some significant miscasting is partly at fault.

Valentina Cortese was one of the most glorious stars to come to Hollywood from Europe. Clearly this is a vehicle for her. Yet, she can't salvage the routine screenplay.

We meet her at Bergen Belsen. This was a daring way to start a film that was going to have nothing to do with the War or Nazis. She isn't convincing as a Pole, but that isn't the film's main problem.

She comes to San Francisco, to another woman's family. (We see her exchange identities with another ex-prisoner at the start.) Richard Basehart does his best as the dark character she finds herself marrying. William Lundigan is fine as a family friend.

At the center of the film is an actress I'd never before heard of: Fay Baker. She has a very important role in the film and, I'm sorry to say, this actress was not up to it. She has an anodyne quality that nudges the movie further into soap opera.

Robert Wise directed. I'd love to know the story of how he went from Orson Welles's editor and a Val Lewton director to helmsman of down and dirty noir like "Born to Kill" -- and then to "The Sound of Music" and his other big-budget musicals of that later period.

Here he does a very decent job. It's beautifully photographed by Lucien Ballard, too. But it left little impression on me -- even though it's a movie I'd long wanted to catch up with.
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Not quite REBECCA in San Fran, but still worthwhile
JasparLamarCrabb13 April 2009
Warning: Spoilers
If Daphne Du Maurier had set REBECCA in 1950s San Francisco, it might very well resemble this uptight, highly unusual noir from Robert Wise. Valentina Cortese plays a concentration camp survivor who steals the identity of a dead woman and insinuates herself into the life of Richard Basehart (who happens also to be the guardian of the dead woman's son)'s absurd and over-the-top but also topflight entertainment. Cortese is terrific, slowly falling apart as she realizes the mistake she's made. Basehart is fine if a bit bland...although the lighting toward the end makes him appear very menacing. Fay Baker makes a very good Mrs. Danvers-like caretaker. Wise is a fine director and he keeps things moving at a pretty brisk clip. He also stages a now classic out of control car crash with Cortese (or at least a stunt Cortese) at the wheel.
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Woman in Peril at the Top of Telegraph Hill
evanston_dad26 July 2013
Pretty standard woman-in-peril film raised a notch or two above the average by high production values and taut direction by Robert Wise.

Valentina Cortesa plays a woman who is released from a concentration camp and takes on the identity of a woman who died in the camp. She uses this new identity as a ticket to America, marries Richard Basehart and assumes the mother role to the son the dead woman left behind. All the while, a possessive and meddling nanny lurks in the background and resists all of Cortesa's overtures to create a happy family.

Richard Basehart was terrific as a villain. He had leading man good looks but was so good at being oily and duplicitous. There is some attempt at making the audience guess how much Cortesa's character is actually in danger from her husband (there's an inheritance involved) and how much the nanny is implicated, but only some. Mostly, the plot is straightforward, and we know Cortesa will get out of everything o.k., just not exactly how.

The film has the look of a film noir, heightened by the San Francisco atmosphere, but it's really more of a conventional suspense thriller than a true noir. It received a sole Oscar nomination for its black and white art direction, courtesy of the many-times-nominated team of Lyle Wheeler and John DeCuir (art direction) and Thomas Little and Paul S. Fox (set decoration).

Grade: B
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Sturdy but contrived noir drama
robert-temple-16 April 2010
The interesting American career of Italian actress Valentina Cortese met a high point here, in one of her best known films. The next year, she gave an even better performance in SECRET PEOPLE (1952, see my review), but here she is also excellent. Here she plays a Polish woman (whereas in SECRET PEOPLE she is Italian), presumably based upon the theory that one foreign accent sounds like any other to the Americans, and with those exquisitely sensitive eyes she might as well be Polish, indeed from anywhere she says, because we believe her. The story commences in the grim surroundings of Belsen, where she and a woman friend are imprisoned by the Nazis. Her friend dies three days before the American liberators arrive, and Valentina assumes her identity because at least the friend has a son in America, while she has no one and nothing left, and anyway she speaks English with an Italian accent so that's OK then. This eventually leads her as a displaced person to New York, where she meets an intimidating lawyer and the sinister Richard Basehart, who is guardian of 'her' young son, who is named Chris and lives in a big mansion on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco. The American Major who interrogated Valentina at Belsen turns up at a party, as American Majors do in films, especially when they are played by handsome and reliable William Lundigan, and she turns to him for help because she is becoming worried by Richard Basehart, who married her as soon as he saw her in New York, and she soon realizes it was really to secure his position in control of the large family fortune. Yes, the story is pretty far-fetched. Robert Wise does his usual superior job of directing, but this script needs more than that. Despite the fact that this film is largely set on Telegraph Hill, it is not one of those hills which is alive with the sound of music. There is a playhouse at the bottom of the garden with a big hole in the floor through which one can fall 300 feet to one's death. It has been sitting there like that for four years 'since the explosion'. For such a large and carefully-kept mansion with a Chinese butler, there is a distinct shortage of maintenance in the garden despite its impeccably cut lawn! Naturally, Valentina falls down the hole when she is cornered there by Basehart, but he grabs her hands and saves her from death. But that is only a temporary respite, for there is the poisoned orange juice to come. Oh, but between those two events, there is the brake fluid drained from the car. And you know how steep those San Francisco hills are without brake fluid. She is saved by a pile of construction sand onto which she lands when the car crashes and she is thrown out. Everything about this story is perfectly natural and happens every day. Valentina loves 'the feel of silk on my skin again' after her sufferings at Belsen, and she has a very sweet nature, but there is a creepy woman named Margaret in the house (played by the eerily forbidding Fay Baker) who is very possessive of the little boy Chris, whose only interest appears to be baseball and is played by a child actor named Gordon Gebert who has a rather annoying voice and is badly handled on screen. Robert Wise had clearly not learned the art of directing children yet. The tension mounts as we slowly climb the Telegraph Hill of this story, and the tale becomes increasingly Gothic and less and less convincing. Will Valentina, who survived Belsen, also be able to survive Basehart's machinations to do her in and have the money to himself? It is very much touch and go and I ain't sayin'.
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Not a bad story idea but it could have been handled better.
MartinHafer20 May 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Victoria (Valentina Cortese) is a Polish concentration camp inmate when the film begins. She is friends with Karin, though it seems likely Karin will not survive the camp. And, when the war ends and Karin is dead, impulsively Victoria assumes Karin's identity. After all, Karin has a relative and child in the US and Victoria is all alone. However, moving into her friend's life isn't as easy as she suspects. While they do accept her as Karin, things have happened behind the scenes and soon Karin/Victoria thinks someone is out to kill her. But who and why? I could say more, but as this is a mystery film, I will not spoil the surprises.

This is a decent movie but has a few problems. The most obvious is that once the leading lady realizes there is a problem in the house, she behaves so stupidly. First, she acts totally high-strung and hides her feelings so poorly. Second, you'd think that given her fears, she'd just get the heck out of the house! In fact, that's a problem with a lot of films--when the leading character is afraid for their life but don't just runaway to avoid being killed. Duh. This just wasn't handled very well. However, despite this, the film does have an interesting plot, it maintains a nice creepy atmosphere, it ends well and the actors all were quite good.

By the way, get a load of the car wreck. It was amazingly unconvincing-especially when the intended victim just got up and walked away after being thrown from the crashing car. Again, duh.
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Professional 50's Suspense
Ian15 September 2017
Warning: Spoilers
(Flash Review)

Sharing many similarities to Hitchcock's Suspicion as well as Notorious, this was a beautifully shot film about a woman who assumes the identity of a friend who died while they were both in a NAZI concentration camp. The deceased woman had a son who inherited a large wealth of money from a death in the family. The imposter woman plays the role of mother, believable as the true mother was away for many years, along with trustees who live in the house caring for the boy who never met the true mother. Various parties jockey for the family wealth in a manner of ways, creating much distrust and suspicion. There are many good tense moments, clues to uncover and plot surprises. Well- paced, well-edited and smart cinematography with great rich black & white film stock.
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Entertaining and actually funny at times
bregund12 March 2017
Warning: Spoilers
Everyone seems to like Valentina Cortese's performance, and while she's believable as a wide-eyed concentration camp survivor arriving in America, it's Richard Basehart who steals the show. I've only ever known him from his TV show in the 60s and his goofy role in La Strada, but for the duration of this film he quietly ratchets up his character from an initially charming but cool demeanor to a full-blown psychotic foaming at the mouth about making forty dollars a week, and Karin/Victoria realizes she never escaped the camp, she just traded one monster for another. Towards the end, he attaches himself to her like a barnacle. She can't even use the phone or have some alone time, which seems amusing in an age where most women would tell their husband to scram.

You might think the scenes from Telegraph Hill are forced perspective, but it really is that steep, one false move and you're cartwheeling all the way down to the bay.

Well, it's not Vertigo, but it does keep you on the edge of your seat. There is a happy ending, Karin/Victoria has a son to care for, a potential male suitor, and she's loaded. Not bad for a Polish country girl.
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A good film that might have been even better
Mikel328 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
'The House on Telegraph Hill' (1951) Starring Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart. Contains minor spoilers.

Last night we were looking for an older film to watch that we had never seen before. We found this movie. It was a strange offbeat mix of friendship, love, infidelity, greed, stolen identity and murder. Richard Basehart shows here just what a fine actor he was. Sadly, I feel he is mostly associated with his role on TVs 'Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea' and not his earlier films that showed his versatility. He was convincing here as a seemingly loving new husband who might just be hiding a murderous side. In some ways much like Gary Grant's character in Alfred Hitchcock's 'Suspicion' (1941). I wonder if that earlier film influenced the character for this one? 'The House on Telegraph Hill' was directed by the usually very talented Robert Wise.

I did like this film and it's worth seeing, however, I couldn't help thinking how much better it may have been if directed by the master of suspense 'Alfred Hitchcock'. It's hard to explain, some scenes just didn't ring as real to me as they might have in a Hitchcock film. Also, the occasional surprises should have had much more impact than they did. I really don't understand that, I expected more from Robert Wise. This was a good film that should have been a great film. The acting talent was all there, something else was missing.

It's interesting to note that the two leads Valentina Cortese and Richard Basehart met making this movie and were soon married. This may have added to the chemistry they had on screen together early on as two lovers. Their marriage lasted 9 years and they had one child together.

I do recommend this movie to people who enjoy crime dramas with some surprises. The story does have a very satisfying ending to it. Also, the resolution of the stolen identity story rather surprised me. I can't explain without giving too much away. I'll only say it seemed justified. I rate this a 6 out of 10.
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