Angel Face (1953) Poster

(1953)

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8/10
In Jean Simmons, Robert Mitchum meets a dangerously demented femme fatale
bmacv29 June 2003
In Otto Preminger's Angel Face, Robert Mitchum lays out his credo: `Never be the innocent bystander. That's the guy who always gets hurt.' He's being disingenuous; he's not quite so innocent as he pretends – but he still ends up getting hurt.

An emergency medical technician, Mitchum responds to a call at a mansion high up a hill. There a wealthy woman (Barbara O'Neil) has almost asphyxiated from the gas in her unlit bedroom fireplace. Was it a suicide bid, or something more sinister? Her husband (Herbert Marshall), a burnt-out novelist she supports, can't explain it. Neither can his daughter by a previous marriage (Jean Simmons).

Mitchum finds Simmons quite the dish, but she finds in him something more than a passing fancy. She jumps into her sleek sports car, follows the ambulance back down to the hospital and waylays Mitchum in a diner. Generous with his affections, Mitchum breaks a date with his steady girlfriend (Mona Freeman) in order to spend a perfectly `innocent' evening of dining and dancing with Simmons.

But his experience with fractures and coronaries hasn't equipped him to deal with a dangerously scrambled psyche. Simmons first invites Freeman to lunch so she can humiliate her by spilling all the details, cunningly tweaked up, of her `innocent' rendezvous with Mitchum. Then she arranges for him to take on the job of family chauffeur, installing him in a garage apartment (just like Joe Gillis in Sunset Blvd.). And she hits up her stepmother to lend Mitchum the money to start up his own business as a car mechanic. Telling himself that he's just looking out for Number One, Mitchum blithely lets her erase any boundaries between them.

Klaxons start bleating, however, when she pounds on his bedroom door in the middle of the night with a cockamamie story about O'Neil hovering over her bed and playing with gas again; the earlier incident, she claims, was just a smokescreen. She tells him, too, that the stepmother reneged on his loan – in order to get back at her. Mitchum's wariness enrages Simmons and redoubles her delusional obstinacy.

When her father and stepmother perish in a spectacular freak accident (their car plummeted in reverse down the steep ravine abutting the driveway), the heiress Simmons finds herself charged with murder. As does Mitchum – he had the expertise to sabotage the vehicle. Wily attorney Leon Ames (in a small but succulent part) sees the defendants' marriage as the path to acquittal. Which leaves Mitchum with a Hobson's choice – risking either the gas chamber or the psychotic wrath of a woman he never loved....

Though Preminger can deploy twists of plot with the best of them, he had a subtler knack of keeping his audience off-balance, never quite sure in which direction the story might develop. So for a while we share the perplexity of Mitchum, so laid back that he doesn't grasp that he's playing with a five-alarm blaze until it's too late; opportunistic but lazy, he's the perfect stooge.

Simmons may have been working within her limitations in her low-voltage, passive-aggressive performance, but she fits the character, who operates in a world inhabited only by herself. She's not a duplicitous vixen scheming to get what she wants; what she wants is the only reality she knows. Preminger recognizes this, and gives her one of the movie's quietest, most freighted scenes: During one of Mitchum's flights from her, she snoops as if sleepwalking through his rooms, finally curling up in his easy chair, his sport coat draped around her shoulders against the dawn chill. It's an eerie calm before the final storm.
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10/10
A haunting theme ... and unforgettable sequences.
Lou Rugani4 February 2000
"Angel Face", according to one film journal, has become a cult film with a strong repeat-viewer base ... a bit like the children at a scary movie who cover their eyes but continue to peek through fingers just the same. I'm an "AF" fan, too. One of the film's most powerful aspects is the utterly chilling soundtrack score with its turbulent minor-key piano. To my mind, Dimitri Tiomkin never composed a more appropriate theme than this. And during the lonely nighttime scene when Jean Simmons' character revisits the windswept driveway where her parents had met their horrific death, when the wordless chorus swells into Tiomkin's theme, see if you don't agree that this is one of cinema's most memorable moments. Highly recommended to all except young children and sensitive adults for its surprising and shocking imagery.
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fast your seat belts
The Big Combo28 May 2004
Otto Preminger takes the noir/ femme fatale genre a step beyond in his usual pessimism. This world of shady mansions, sad piano-playing and lonely boulevards perpetually driven, suits well Jean Simmons's calm insanity and Mitchum's stoic acceptance of his tragic destiny. Mitchum uses the same discontent tone to order a beer and to refuse to be part of a murder. He smokes, empty-minded, staring out of the window, too tired to get his way out of the schemes of his employers. He may take the most important decision of his life, but after the cigarette's over he'll be doing the total opposite. On the other hand one has the feeling that the film wouldn't worked as well with one more conventional noir leading lady, like Lana Turner. Simmons' charming and weak aspect makes her character irresistible. To top it all there's a masterful score by Dimitri Tiomkin and the most surprising of endings.
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shock registers after initially lulling pace
limsgirl18 August 2001
Angel Face was a recommended film according to several noir chronicles, so I figured when it rolled around on TMC I could tape it and erase if it failed to satisfy. Despite initial difficulty getting involved in the plot, before I knew it I was absorbed by Jean Simmon's keynote performance. The myriad small moments of suspense along the way in no way prepare the viewer for the shocking moment which closed this cautionary tale. Definitely recommended viewing.
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10/10
The essence of melancholy
hildacrane31 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
A sense of unavoidable doom hangs over this film from the start, when an ambulance, its siren blaring, races to a mansion whose owner has almost been asphyxiated by gas--whether by accident or design is not clear.

Jean Simmons is mesmerizing as the haunted and haunting Diane, who lives luxuriously in postwar L.A. , but whose wartime-London childhood has irreparably scarred her. (Robert Mitchum' s hapless Frank would have done well to remember that in Roman mythology Diana was the huntress.) This film has one of the most melancholy scenes of any film near its end when Diane wanders disconsolately through a deserted mansion. She enters and leaves rooms where she had once been happy, and Dimitri Tiomkin's music painfully underscores the character's desolation. That loneliness is later echoed in the final image: a cab driver drives up to the empty house and honks his horn in vain for passengers who will never appear.
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For Robert Mitchum fans, it is a must see film!
gitrich4 December 1998
Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons give great performances in this deliberate but interesting drama about a beautiful woman who is not what she seems. The ending will surprise and shock you. I saw this film in 1953 as a young boy and can remember it like it was yesterday. It has a way of sticking with you. Leon Ames,Herbert Marshall, Barbara O'Neil, and Jim Backus (voice of Mr. Magoo) round out a nice cast.
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8/10
excellent Preminger
blanche-214 September 2005
Jean Simmons meets the man of her dreams just as he walks into a nightmare in "Angel Face," an Otto Preminger film released in 1952. Simmons is excellent as a beautiful young woman who hates her wealthy stepmother, adores her father, and is obsessed with an ambulance driver, played by Robert Mitchum, who comes to the family home when it appears Diane's stepmother tried to kill herself. Although the victim claims that someone tried to kill her...

Mitchum brings a perfect touch of ne'er do well and untrustworthiness to the role. He has ambition, he has a job, but he's a jerk to his girlfriend (Mona Freeman) and seems more than happy to take up with Diane when she pursues him.

Simmons, though not as striking as Vivien Leigh, has a similar look - she's petite, with a beautiful figure and facial structure, and gorgeous eyes. Her performance as Diane is right on - even the cynical Mitchum character can't quite figure her out, even when he thinks he has. She keeps her stepmother off-balance, too. There are some wonderful touches - when she walks into her father's house toward the end of the film, without any dialogue, one knows she can no longer live there.

The ending is breathtaking. This Preminger film has the pace lacking in "Fallen Angel," which is another character study of a sort.
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Better and more Poetic film than Preminger's classic 'Laura'
Aw-komon5 July 2000
This very poetic film is really, in essence, a study of two characters: 'Robert Mitchum' and 'Jean Simmons.' It's very style affords them ample opportunities for revealing aspects of their fascinatingly complex personalities that would have never been unveiled in more standard Hollywood fare. Although it doesn't have the ingenious plot of 'Laura,' as soon as you look beyond plot, you realize how much more poetic and ultimately satisfying it is. For some reason, 'Angel Face' isn't out on video, but Turner Classic Movies plays it every other month; so catch it there and make sure you have your VCR running.
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8/10
Reverse Obsession for Preminger
krorie27 July 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger's "Laura" and "Fallen Angel" concerned themselves with men obsessed with beautiful but dangerous women. Preminger's "Angel Face" reverses this and is about a woman (Jean Simmons) obsessed with a man (Robert Mitchum)to the point of wanting him dead if she cannot have him for herself. There is a second woman who is nearly obsessed with Mitchum, Mona Freeman, but her obsession is much less lethal and she learns how to wean herself away from him. Another famous director, Alfred Hitchcock, would take the theme of obsession to the heights of its glory in the movie classic "Vertigo." Most men and women have found certain dangerous others to their liking and it's easy to see how such liking can become perverted into obsession. Stalking, which is so much in the news today, can become a lethal form of obsession. I have often wondered why such a gifted and talented actress as Jean Simmons never received her just desserts in Hollywood or with the general public. After seeing this movie, I partly understand why. She reminded me so much of a young Elizabeth Taylor that at first glance I thought that was the actress I was seeing. The title is apt for Jean Simmons. She certainly does have an angel face, but what is in her heart? Watch the film and find out. Some critics have downplayed the ending as not very shocking, but the viewer must realize that this film was made in 1952, long before such movies as Thelma and Louise et al. Even today the ending packs a punch. Though not on the same level as the classic "Laura," this is still top notch film noir.
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8/10
What a subtle and yet outrageous movie, great plot and direction and acting
secondtake11 February 2011
Angel Face (1952)

An extraordinary film in many ways, including simply avoiding clichés. It starts with a slap, and ends with a real shock. Between it beguiles, it plays with your sympathies, it seems to toy with an obvious turn of events then subverts it.

Robert Mitchum is the obvious centerpiece for most viewers, and if you know him you know he's consistent in all his roles, including in this one where he plays a mechanic doing odd jobs. More impressive, for me, is the femme fatale, the leading woman, Jean Simmons, who not only has an angel face, but an expressive one, moving from lively and untarnished to devious, pained, or stubborn. The two of them do not have the on screen chemistry of some of the great romances in film--blame Mitchum, maybe, for his coolness, attractive as it is to the viewer, or blame the director, Otto Preminger.

Preminger, for all his genius and willingness to flaunt the censors, is a director's director, a little like Welles without the burden of virtuosity. His best films ("Man with the Golden Arm" and "Laura" and possibly "Anatomy of a Murder") present a romantic situation as if it is a given. It doesn't really develop into something steamy or passionate or emotionally necessary. That is, he's no Nicholas Ray in this sense. And so in "Angel Face" there is a romantic involvement that is believable but never quite compelling.

And usually this is perfect, because Mitchum and Simmons in their parts are wary of each other, or are not quite involved for the sake of love. Or for love alone. That's partly why the movie works, as a movie, in a slightly different way than we expect from this kind of romance. And it's not just a romance, of course, with the hint of murder in the fringes. And then a real murder, with a huge and awful twist.

There's no question this is a beautiful movie, and a compact one, moving through several phases of the plot with fluidity. The secondary actors are good, mainly the inimitable Herbert Marshall as the father. And the writing is particularly good, I think. This is a special movie the way Jacques Tourneur's "Out of the Past," which also stars Mitchum. It's has film noir strains, but it is something else completely, too. Special stuff.
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