Because aging boxer Bill Thompson always lost his past fights, his corrupt manager, without telling Thompson, takes bribes from a betting gangster, to ensure Thompson's pre-arranged dive-loss in the next match.
The ambitious Stanton "Stan" Carlisle works in a sideshow as carny and assistant of the mentalist Zeena Krumbein, who is married with the alcoholic Pete. The couple had developed a secret code to pretend to read minds and was successful in the show business before Pete starts drinking. Stan stays with them expecting to learn their code and leave the carnival to be a successful mentalist. Stan also flirts with the gorgeous Molly that lives in the carnival with the strong Bruno. Zeena and The Savage, an alcoholic man that eats live chickens that the audiences believe that is a savage, are the greatest attractions of the sideshow. When Stan gives booze to Pete and he dies, Stan finds that Pete had drunk methyl alcohol and not his booze, but he feels guilty for the death of him. Zeena teaches the code to him and Molly helps Stan to learn them. After an incident, Stan is forced to marry Molly and he decides to move to Chicago with her to become a sensation in a night club. One day, he ...Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
According to Eddie Muller of the Film Noir Foundation, charlatans and grifters in the new age/mystic con would use the phrase "Are you a friend of Stan Carlisle?" or a variation on it to confirm that the person they were talking to was in the same line of business. See more »
The recording machine that creates a major plot point is a Wilcox-Gay disc cutter that could record at 78 or 33 rpm on a maximum disk size of ten inches. It cut at a fixed 96 lines per inch. Unfortunatly those specs limited recording time to about 3 minutes at 78 rpm and only a bit more at 33. A real professional would have used something like a Presto which cut 12 inch discs or a broadcasting machine like a Scully that could cut 16 inch disks. Even the FBI used disk cutters in pairs so one could begin recording when the others had used up all its blank disk surface. A much more likely device would have been a wire recorder which despite its limited fidelity could record speech for an hour. These units were not cheap but Dr. Ritter was obviously wealthy. Her Wilcox-Gay recorder had a retail price at that time of about $100.00 and was among the lowest priced recorders sold. See more »
Tryone Power gave one of his finest performances in "Nightmare Alley." His off-beat role highlighted a strange and intriguing tale, and was a role which he reportedly fought hard to get, upon his return to film work following military duty.
Power proved he was capable of much more demanding parts than those normally given him. On screen most of the time, he displayed a flair for sound characterization and nuance, being endowed with an unusually fine speaking voice and diction.
Lee Garmes' cinematography and Thomas Little's set decoration are notable here, and the entire cast works in fine ensemble fashion. Only some plot details may seem a little obvious and predictable. That's probably because "Nightmare Alley" details have been copied numerous times by other film makers and, as a result, we're much more savvy now than 1947 audiences.
It was a particular treat to have an opportunity to see this film last week on a film society series in a beautiful 35mm print. The showing also reminded viewers how beautiful and effective black and white productions are, and how much they're missed.
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