Emily Crane is fired after refusing to give names to a 1951 House Un-American Activities Committee, and takes a part-time job as companion to an old lady. One day her attention is drawn to ... See full summary »
Emily Crane is fired after refusing to give names to a 1951 House Un-American Activities Committee, and takes a part-time job as companion to an old lady. One day her attention is drawn to a noisy argument being conducted largely in German in a neighbouring house, the more so since one of those involved is her main senator prosecutor. Starting to look into things, she gradually enlists the help of FBI officer Cochran who was initially detailed to check her out. Just as well when things turn nasty. Written by
Jeremy Perkins <firstname.lastname@example.org>
In one scene, Emily overhears The Women in the House character (who is off-screen) speaking to one of the Russians through an interpreter. The Woman is telling the Russian that they will leave for Chicago "tomorrow." The interpreter mistakenly says "tomorrow" in English and then corrects himself mid-word to the correct Russian word "zaftra." See more »
Much has been made of films which use past decades to set their stories in, but much less praise has been directed at those which emulate the style originally employed in that period. There has, of course, been many failures to replicate the successful Alfred Hitchcock formula. "The House on Carroll Street" is not one of those. It falls into neither common failing of such films - there is no attempt to graft an anachronistic approach to an older style, nor to bring that older style into a modern decade. This film understands that such a style cannot be separated from the emotions and perceptions of the time.
Peter Yates, a director who generally creates for the present time, does an unexpectedly excellent job at recreating this lost world. He uses cinematographer Michael Ballhaus (who went on to photograph "Quiz Show", another 1950s recreation) to wonderful effect, letting him capture his scenes in a manner that never once strays from the older approach. Yates shows us how thrilling the suspense and big set-pieces can be when not buried in special effects and quick cuts. Yates proves why he's one of the great overlooked talents.
Jeff Daniels and Kelly McGillis have very much that 'star chemistry' valued for this sort of picture. McGillis, especially, brings a lightness and intensity most modern actresses could only pretend at. Patinkin is appropriately menacing. Jessica Tandy was my favorite performance, a tiny role nonetheless brightened by the nuances she brings to it. Christopher Buchholz provides an engaging, fearful, yet somehow innocent performance to the character of Stefan.
Imagining that "The House on Carroll Street" were somehow released during the era in which it is set, I have little doubt it would be considered one of the great classics. Films such as "North By Northwest" have all the same limitations and plot implausibilities, yet are no more or less thrilling than this one. I see nothing of lower quality to be found here, only a picture made in a period where it couldn't be recognized. If you love the classic thrillers, you should certainly love this one as well.
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