Invalid George Jones is both physically and mentally ill. He mistakenly believes his wife Ellen and his doctor are having an affair and also planning to kill him. He writes a letter to his lawyer detailing their alleged murder plot. After he has Ellen give the letter to their postman, he reveals its contents to her and then threatens her with a gun. The excitement proves to much and George suffers a fatal collapse. Now Ellen must find a way to retrieve the incriminating letter.Written by
Daniel Bubbeo <email@example.com>
Cause for Alarm! is directed by Tay Garnett and adapted to screenplay by Mel Dinelli and Tom Lewis from a story written by Larry Marcus. It stars Loretta Young, Barry Sullivan and Bruce Cowling. Music is scored by Andre Previn and cinematography by Joseph Ruttenberg.
George Jones is suffering from a heart condition and confined to his bed. An aloof and suspicious man, he assumes his wife and doctor, the latter a good friend, are conspiring to poison him and outlines his suspicion in a letter to the District Atttorney. Getting his wife to pass the letter on to the postman, he gleefully tells his wife what he has done. So when he actually does die, shortly after, wife Ellen panics and sets about retrieving the letter.....
Slight plot but well acted, Cause for Alarm! is an efficient pot boiling thriller. Tagged as a "suburban noir," it's a film that has had an up and down experience in terms of critical appraisal. What we can say now is that it does carry with it a degree of ambiguity, where once back in the day it was seen as a straight forward narrative, with Young's ever increasingly fraught wife trying to correct a wrong she hasn't in fact done; now it's quite possible that her telling of the story (via narration) is "arguably" a hokey smoke screen for a dastardly deed. It's the ambiguity, to me at least, that gives the film watchable value. For without it the film just plays out as a chase and deceive movie, one with a couple of colourful characters inserted in for plot suspense enhancement, and featuring a clumsy character thread about parental yearning.
Production (in 14 days) and cast performances are good. Young engages by exuding genuine sweaty stress, and supporting turns from Margalo Gillmore and Irving Bacon, as annoyingly talkative aunt and postman respectively, leave favourable marks. Direction from multi genre helmer Garnett is nicely on the simmer, while Ruttenberg's photography brings shadows and light to this twitchy part of suburbia. But the ending, if indeed there are no tricks being played, is a thoroughly unsatisfying outcome. There are those who have delved deep in search of meaning and explanations of character motives and reactions, with that the film has an aura of mystery about it. Certainly there are more questions than answers unfolded during the relatively short running time, and that's OK, we like that Sullivan's bile based husband courts no sympathy. However, it may well be that the film was merely just meant to be a suspenseful little ole race against time drama, a tale about a woman who just married a less than honourable man.
It's watchable and the paranoia elements do indeed bring it into the film noir realm, but your enjoyment of it may depend on if you side with the theory that there is more than meets the eyes and ears. Personally I have my doubts, and the thought of having to watch it again is about as appealing as painting Loretta's picket fence on the hottest day of the year. 5/10
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