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John Hamilton leaves a comfortable New York job to take up as an artist in a quiet Connecticut town. His dipso wife hates the life and falsely makes him out to be selfish, unsuccessful, and, worst, someone who hits her. When she suddenly disappears suspicion falls on him and the townsfolk take the law into their own hands. Hamilton finds his only allies are the local children he has befriended. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <email@example.com>
Like a lot of classic film stars, Alan Ladd's career ended on a low rather than a high note, and one of his last films, 1959's Man in the Net, is a good example of this. It was also one of the last films for director Michael Curtiz who directed such classics as "Casablanca." It's a poor effort from such an accomplished man.
Ladd plays an artist who has left the pressure of NYC and his full time job in order to paint. He spends most of his time in the woods, painting, while a group of local kids play nearby and talk with him. His major problem isn't the brushes and colors, though, it's his wife (Carolyn Jones), an alcoholic who wants to return to the social atmosphere that helped her drinking along in the first place. Here in the boondocks, she's hooked up with the ritzy set, to Ladd's displeasure.
When he returns from a business trip to New York City, his wife is missing, there is blood on his painting clothes, his paintings have been destroyed, and everybody thinks he's responsible. With the help of the children he has befriended, he eludes the police and is able to get the proof he needs to exonerate himself.
With a tighter script and someone other than Ladd, this might have been a decent movie. The kids are adorable, and that angle of the script plays out nicely. Ladd, unfortunately, sleepwalks through the role and at times, actually looks like a blind man. I tried to figure out why, and I think it's just because he's literally staring into space instead of focusing on something. There was never anything spectacular about Ladd's acting - what he had was a presence, a toughness, and good looks. These are all gone, and in their place is a puffy, heavy-lidded, slow man.
In contrast, the striking Carolyn Jones is full of energy in her role. With her signature short haircut and Bette Davis eyes, Jones was an edgy actress who left us too soon. She was very good at playing neurotic party girls and straying wives, though she's remembered today as Morticia on "The Addams Family" TV show.
All in all, "The Man in the Net" plays like a television drama, with the suburbanites going after Ladd like they all live in the wild west. Someone commented that today he would be suspicious for hanging out with children, and that aspect dates the film as well. It's a shame, because the nicest aspect of the movie was the way the kids rallied around him and helped him.
If you loved Ladd in "This Gun for Hire," "The Glass Key," "The Blue Dahlia," and "Shane," skip this. You don't need to see a fallen star.
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