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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Crazy Heart
lucaajmone-it23 March 2010
Jean Simmons is sensational as the deeply disturbed beautiful girl. She creates a characters that is both, alluring and terrifying at the same time. She looks at Mitchum asking him "Do you love me?" and we know she's trouble, real trouble but just like Mitchum we're ready to fall into her trap without really knowing or caring what kind of trap we're falling into. Otto Preminger at the helm is not George Cukor. Oh how I wish George Cukor had directed this film. He did wonders with Simmons in "The Actress" and he understood the female heart even one as dangerous as this one. Preminger seems interested in showing us and telling us rather than allowing us to participate in a more organic way. The script is uncertain at best but Jean Simmons makes the film, compelling viewing.
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Mid-20th Century Obsession
mackwoodward15 November 2001
Just saw this movie for the first time today and don't know why I've not seen it before; we taped it off TCM some time ago. It is haunting, as others have commented. I'm surprised that no one compares it to the admittedly somewhat overblown "Leave Her to Heaven" from 1945: the obsession with possession of those she loves by both Ellen and Diane is remarkable. I wonder if any scholars of women's film history have ventured here.
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A Perfect Female Fatale
Claudio Carvalho4 June 2013
In California, the ambulance driver Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) and his partner head to a mansion in Beverly Hills to assist the millionaire Mrs. Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil) that was poisoned with gas, but her doctor had already medicated her. When Frank is leaving the house, he meets Catherine's twenty year-old stepdaughter Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) that follows him in her Jaguar. After-hours, they go to a restaurant and Frank finds an excuse to his girlfriend Mary Wilton (Mona Freeman) to not visit her and he dates Diane and they go to a night-club. Diane has a crush on Frank and on the next morning, she meets Mary and tells to her what Frank and she did.

Frank and Mary are saving money to open a garage since he is an efficient mechanic. Diane convinces Frank to be better paid working as a chauffeur for her family. Soon Frank learns that Diane hates her stepmother and he decides to quit his job. But Diane seduces him and he stay with the Tremayne family. When Mr. and Mrs. Tremayne have a fatal car accident, Diane and Frank become the prime suspect of the police and they go to court charged of murder. Now their only chance is the strategy of the efficient defense attorney Fred Barrett (Leon Ames).

"Angel Face" is among the best film-noir I have seen, with a perfect female fatale, amoral story and dark conclusion. Jean Simmons is impressive, with Oedipus complex and her angel face that manipulates Frank and even her stepmother. The melancholic music score completes this great movie. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Alma em Pânico" ("Soul in Panic")
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Drama, Death & Distortions of Love
seymourblack-128 October 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Otto Preminger's "Angel Face" combines great drama, excellent set pieces and some fine performances to tell the story of how the meeting of its two main protagonists leads to murder and the destruction of their closest relationships.

Frank Jessop (Robert Mitchum) is an ex-professional racer who has ambitions to run his own business specialising in the sale of parts for racing cars and Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) is a spoilt rich girl who has an obvious obsessive affection for her father Charles (Herbert Marshall). The couple meet when Frank is working as an ambulance man and is called to the family house when Diane's stepmother Catherine is taken ill as a result of a serious gas leak in her bedroom. She claims that someone tried to kill her but the evidence at the scene suggests that it was a suicide attempt. Catherine recovers sufficiently to avoid the need for her to be admitted to hospital.

As soon as Frank and Diane's friendship begins, Diane arranges to meet Frank's girlfriend Mary (Mona Freeman) and successfully destroys any trust she had in Frank. Then, after convincing her parents of their need to employ a chauffeur, Frank is persuaded to take the job. Things look good for Frank as he is provided with his own apartment, the promise of one of the Tremayne cars to use in a road race which could provide valuable publicity for his future business and also the realistic prospect of Catherine making a significant investment in his venture. However, when he starts to recognise the level of hatred that Diane has for Catherine and she tells him a couple of obviously invented stories, he becomes concerned about his predicament and says he is going to leave. Diane pleads with him to take her with him and points out that she already has her packed case with her. He completely rejects her plea.

Charles and Catherine get killed in a car crash and Diane has a breakdown and gets hospitalised. Frank and Diane are charged with murder and their defence lawyer Fred Barrett (Leon Ames) arranges for them to get married before the trial to put a good complexion on the fact that Diane's case was found in Frank's apartment. Their lawyer successfully discredits the prosecution's case and the couple are found not guilty. Following this, Frank tells Diane that he wants a divorce and tries to reconcile with Mary. She rejects the idea and tells him that she's started a relationship with his ex-colleague Bill (Kenneth Tobey). Mary explains that Bill would be reliable in a relationship whereas she would never be able to trust Frank again.

Diane is racked with guilt and goes to Barrett's office to make a written confession that she was solely responsible for the murder of her parents. He explains the futility of doing this because of the double jeopardy rule and the likelihood that if she pursues her desired course of action, she would probably get committed to an insane asylum. She returns home, finds Frank packing to leave and offers him a lift to the bus station before their relationship reaches its spectacular conclusion.

"Angel Face" contains two unique set pieces that are both shocking and brilliantly executed and it's also interesting to note the distorted nature of some of the protagonists' relationships. The interactions between Frank, Mary and Bill seem casual, pragmatic and totally devoid of passion, strong feelings or genuine emotional commitment. Diane's relationships by contrast, are powerful. obsessive and completely destructive. Jean Simmons' portrayal of the devious, deadly and seriously unbalanced Diane is measured and convincing, Leon Ames is brilliant as the unctuous Barrett and Robert Mitchum is superbly nonchalant as fatalistic Frank.
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Paint by the numbers Film Noir
Turfseer18 April 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Speaking during the special features DVD commentary, noted film noir 'expert', Eddie Muller, concedes that when he first watched 'Angel Face', he had a nagging feeling "underneath" it all, that this was a film that was "fairly minor and somewhat unexceptional". Somehow Mr. Muller's gut feelings were subsumed by other factors. Undoubtedly he was swayed by famed New Wave Director Godard placing the film on his top ten list of the sound era, a fact which he happens to mention during the DVD commentary. But beyond that Muller seems to be most impressed by Director Otto Preminger's "efficiency" in telling his story. Perhaps we were both watching a different movie because if anything, it's precisely the inefficiency of the storytelling that relegates it to the "B" list of mediocre noirs, despite the "A" list cast!

As Muller informs us, when Angel Face was first released, it was not a box office success. Critics rightly pointed out that it suffered from a slow-moving narrative and certainly this is true up until the midpoint, when Diana, the film's femme fatale (servicably played by Jean Simmons) murders her father and step-mother. The beginning of the film starts off with a bang, as paramedic Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) races to the upper-class Tremayne household where he and his partner find that Diana's stepmother, Catherine, has been almost asphyxiated by gas. Soon, Diana takes an obsessive interest in Frank and she even tries to ruin his relationship with current girlfriend Mary Wilton by meeting with her for lunch and telling her that she had a date with Frank. Diana's parents and their Japanese servants also prove to be interesting characters but are never developed (the father is a 'famous novelist' who now has writer's block and the stepmother enjoys weekly bridge games).

The story soon becomes lethargic and predictable as the focus is mainly on Diana's obsession. Like many of these femme fatale characters, the obsession is usually a 'given' and in this case Diana appears to have a thing for her father which causes her to hate the stepmother (she mainly blames the stepmother for causing Daddy's writer's block). There are just too many repetitious talky scenes where Diana meets with Frank as she tries to ensnare him. When Frank finally agrees to take the chauffeur job at the Tremayne's, with the hope that his sports car shop will be bankrolled, the hard-boiled Mitchum seems miscast as a chump who's willing to go against 'his better judgment' in hooking up with nut job Diana. While the manner in which Diana kills her parents is certainly quite cinematic (with the family car dramatically going over the cliff), it's all rather predictable stuff. In a bit of over dramatic foreshadowing, Preminger has Diana watch as she flips a cigarette box over the cliff shortly before the murder . What's more, Frank recognizes that Diana is obsessed and correctly predicts that she intends to murder her stepmother—this propels him to tell Diana that's he's leaving.

I also had a hard time believing that Diana wouldn't account for her father's whereabouts before she fixes the car so it'll drive in reverse. After all, the whole idea is to finish off the stepmother so she can have her father all for herself.

Ironically, the courtroom scene is finally a welcome relief after all the prior stodgy, dialogue-laden scenes before the murder. With the help of an excellent Leon Ames as Diana's slick attorney and some good cross-cutting cinematography, the courtroom drama doesn't seems as 'talky' as all the stuff prior to the midpoint. That's probably because we've become tired of Diana's histrionics and since she remains in the background during the trial, the "B" players take over and provide us with a refreshing change of pace.

Since this is 1952, during the height of the Hollywood 'decency' code, a murderer must get his/her just desserts (and Diana's seeming remorse is not enough to save her!) . Since Frank lied to the police about his knowledge of Diana's state of mind, he too must be punished. The ending of Angel Face is disappointing as we see it coming from the get go. We know that Diana is going to bump off Frank since he rejects her but we don't know exactly how. So when it turns out, it's another 'over the cliff with the car' job, the sense of deja vu leads us to exclaim, 'been there, done that!'

The problem with the entire femme fatale storyline is that by 1952 it's been done so many times before that the screenwriters needed a new angle to keep the audience's interest. But there are no surprises here in Jean Simmon's one-note portrayal of the demented socialite. The fault is not entirely with the actress since the part in itself lends itself to one-note overacting.

Finally, despite being miscast in Angel Face, it's comforting to know that Robert Mitchum wasn't such a milquetoast in real life. According to Mr. Muller, after Otto Preminger insisted that Mitchum slap Simmons multiple times during rehearsal, Mr. Mitchum turned around and slapped Preminger in the face and asked, "is this the way you want it done?" Mitchum objected to Preminger treating women the way he did and Preminger then stalked off the set, insisting that Mitchum be fired. Preminger was unsuccessful in his demand and Mitchum continued to live up to his reputation as a chivalrous tough guy knight in shining armor.
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Fascinating Noir With A Disturbing, Alluring Simmons And A Laconic Mitchum...
Jem Odewahn10 February 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Anyone with a reasonable knowledge of film noir can see at least two previous titles echoed in this film- Out Of The Past and The Postman Always Twice. However, despite certain plot similarities to these two other noir gems, Angel Face becomes something different entirely, due in large part to the fascinating performance of Jean Simmons as the beautiful, alluring yet dangerous and possibly psychotic rich-girl femme fatale Diane Tremayne.

I loved the opening scene in the luxurious Tremayne mansion. Working-class guy Frank Jessup (Mitchum, effortlessly laconic and endlessly watchable as usual), an ambulance worker, has been called to the residence because of a near-fatal case of gas poisoning. Mitchum, and the audience, soon become embroiled in the fascinating yet troubled world of Simmons, who Mitchum slaps upon first meeting. And Simmons slaps back.

From this fatalistic encounter, we know we are headed down the doom-laden path of film noir, where Frank is inevitably going to be lured (he puts up very little resistance to Diane's machinations- hey, the girl is rich and gorgeous, so what's the poor guy to do?) away from his average, yet decent sweetheart Mary, and become a part of Diane's schemes.

As I said previously, Simmon's character is the most intriguing element of this noir concoction from Otto Preminger, who had dealt with male obsession eight years earlier in the classic Laura. Is Diane a completely amoral, spoiled girl, or is she verging on insane? Her character reminds me a lot of Gene Tierney's Ellen in Leave Her To Heaven. Both wealthy and beautiful women are so consumed by jealousy that they will stop at nothing to get what they want, and they pointedly drive their obsessions towards men who seem unworthy of their beauty and social position (Richard is good-natured yet hardly exciting in Leave Her To Heaven, Frank is from the working class). They also seem to be suffering from a bit of an Electra complex.

When Diane sits and plays the haunting, recurring piano piece as her hated stepmother and beloved father reverse straight over the cliff in the car which she has rigged, her face is rigid, set, almost devoid of any outward emotion. This scene reminds me of an awful lot of Ellen coldly watching Danny drown in Leave Her To Heaven. While Ellen's killing is done in unnerving silence and Diane plays a music accompaniment to her sins, the effect (and result) is much the same.

Mitchum plays a role quite similar to his P.I in Out Of The Past, yet he seems a lot less charismatic or intelligent here. One thing that intrigues me- why would Mitchum, having known Simmons was capable of murder-by-car earlier, agree to be driven to the bus station by her? Is this an unconscious acceptance of his inability to rid himself of Simmons or is he just too short-sighted to see what she is capable of? And does Simmons even know what she is capable of, and when? The film possesses a good script, with some nice snappy noir lines. While Angel Face is not as strikingly visual in it's use of black-and-white (most of the scenes take place in well-lit interiors), it is the themes of sexual obsession, fatalism, corruption (the shyster lawyer Simmons hires gets her off a murder charge), wealth and moral decay that make it a great noir.
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Great Stars & Supporting Cast
keylight-420 January 2008
This is one of my favorite movies. In addition to the two great-looking stars, Robert Mitchum & Jean Simmons, the supporting cast is terrific: Herbert Marshall, Barbara O'Neil, Leon Ames, Kenneth Tobey, et al. The haunting music score and the beautiful black & white photography create a moody, brooding atmosphere.

Mitchum's character, Frank Jessup, drifts into a relationship with the scheming Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons), even though he has a more or less "regular" girlfriend, Mary, whom he takes for granted, played by Mona Freeman. Frank is a man who has apparently followed the path of least resistance for most of his life, and this time that easy path leads to big trouble, and ultimately, murder.

One thing I found interesting about this movie was the strongly implied sexual nature of the relationship between Frank and Mary. When Frank is responding to Diane's probing questions about Mary, he says that she "weighs 105 pounds, stripped...". Then when Frank drops in unexpectedly on Mary while she's dressing to go to work, she answers the door in her robe, but then takes it off and stands at the door of the bedroom talking to Frank, wearing only a slip. This was rather daring for 1952, because Mary was portrayed not as a tragic heroine overcome by passion and desire, or as a hard-bitten tramp with a sordid past, but as a "nice girl", a decent young woman who cared about Frank and wanted to marry him. I'm surprised that this scene got past the censors.

This is a very watchable movie, well worth adding to your film library.
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The ultimate femme fatale?
Leofwine_draca27 July 2015
ANGEL FACE is a dark and brooding film noir mystery featuring a likable, laconic Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons as the object of his love/nemesis. The story begins with paramedic Mitchum showing up as a result of a case of suspected gas poisoning, but before long he soon begins to fall in love with the victim's stepdaughter, who rekindles his love of fast cars.

What follows is a brooding slow-burner of a film with murky photography and even murkier character intentions. Mitchum essentially plays the viewer's role, a newcomer to the almost Gothic mysteries surrounding this rich household, while Simmons bags a typically complex role and one she ably succeeds with. Otto Preminger's direction brings out the atmosphere of the tale while the slow-building suspense is punctuated by outbursts of sudden violence which shock the viewer to the core.
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Car trouble
jc-osms5 July 2015
Apparently shot in 18 days to ensure Jean Simmons filmed her part while still under contract to producer Howard Hughes, this is a fine film noir with a particularly memorable ending.

I wasn't sure I could believe Robert Mitchum, the king of world-weary sardonic-ism, falling so readily for the youthful charms of evil step-daughter Simmons, especially with a smart, pretty and loving girl of his own, but once I surrendered this point, it was easy, rather like Mitchum's ambulance-driver, to be persuaded to follow the plot here through to the bitter end.

I actually considered both leads to be somewhat miscast in the film, Simmons effect dulled somewhat by a rather ugly helmet of a wig and the dialogue lacks the snap of a Hammett, Chandler or even a Spillane, but the narrative is intriguing and the ambivalent natures of both the main parts strangely compelling, plus, like I said there's a surprise, no make that shock ending, to finish things off with a knockout punch.

Director Preminger mixes up some staple noir elements of a femme fatale, her stooge of a male admirer, sex, murder and mystery, employing big-close-ups, atmospheric lighting and crisply shot monochromatic sets, perhaps only faltering over a slightly dull, over-technical courtroom scene, and the miscasting already mentioned.

Nevertheless, the story crackles along and I doubt many will anticipate the climax, which certainly caught me off-guard and yet in retrospect, delivers a finish true to the genre's often nihilistic traits.

Mitchum of course is naturally very good as the ensnared Frank, the piano-playing Simmons, dressed throughout in black and white outfits, perhaps stressing the duality of her nature, a little less so.
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Good, weird ending
Kelley-46 August 1998
Really a good film. If you like Robert Mitchum, you need to see this movie. Jean Simmons plays a good psycho. I figured the movie could only end one of two ways. One was happy, the other, unreal. It was the unreal one. See if you can guess, before it happens.
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Fun to watch, but filled with ridiculous improbabilities
MartinHafer14 May 2007
Warning: Spoilers
This is a fun film to watch and it's really interesting to see the usually sweet Jean Simmons (the actress, not the rocker) play a femme fatale. And there are also many interesting story points--particularly her desire to murder her step-mother. However, time and again the film seems to chose the path of improbability and when you put together all these difficult to believe moments, the overall effect is rather muted. The best example of this was the end of the movie. Sure, it's a lot of fun to watch but who would believe that Mitchum would get in a car Simmons is driving after he's positive she murdered her dad and step-mom by fiddling with the car! Plus, the usually street-wise and cool Mitchum plays a real chump who is practically led around by the nose by a woman--something that you just can't believe about the Mitchum persona. A few other hard to believe moments would include Mitchum agreeing to be tried along with Simmons for murder when he's sure she did it, agreeing to marry her and sticking around in the first place soon after the film began--it was obviously a set-up. Interesting but quite flawed like MANY of the films of Howard Hughes (who, behind the scenes was VERY involved with the film).
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A Sly Homicidal Minx
bkoganbing28 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Angel Face has always for me been a kind of cut rate version of Sunset Boulevard without all the glitz and glamor of a Hollywood setting. Jean Simmons is not an older woman here, but she most certainly is as much of a femme fatale as Gloria Swanson playing Norma Desmond.

Robert Mitchum plays an ambulance driver who responds to the home that Simmons lives in with father Herbert Marshall and stepmother Barbara O'Neil. For no discernible reason Simmons hates O'Neil feeling she should be number one in her father's life. She hatches a scheme and draws the hapless Mitchum in.

The main problem with Angel Face is Robert Mitchum is much too strong a screen presence to play what is essentially a weak character. I never quite was able to believe him in the part.

On the other hands Simmons does very well cast against type. She's usually good people on the screen, sexy, but good. She is one cunning minx in this film.

Otto Preminger directed Angel Face and he was his usual tyrannical self on the set. So much so that according to Lee Server's fine biography of Mitchum, he got overenthusiastic trying to demonstrate a proper reaction to Jean Simmons on how to take a slap. Mitchum felt so bad for her that he intervened, asking Preminger in no uncertain terms to see what his reaction would be if Preminger slapped him.

Angel Face is an interesting noir melodrama that could have used a few improvements.
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Never be the innocent bystander, that's the guy that always gets hurt.
Spikeopath7 November 2011
Angel Face is directed by Otto Preminger and adapted to screenplay by Ben Hecht, Oscar Millard and Frank S. Nugent from a story written by Chester Erskine. It stars Robert Mitchum, Jean Simmons, Mona Freeman and Herbert Marshall. Music is scored by Dimitri Tiomkin and cinematography is by Harry Stradling.

The Tremayne residence, home to beguiling beauty Diane Tremayne (Simmons). When ambulance driver Frank Jessup (Mitchum) meets her for the first time, little did he know that he would soon be engulfed in a world of sexual desires and possible murder.

Well if it ain't the dead body jockey.

In film noir circles it's certainly well known enough, and it can count a number of big names in the movie world as its supporters, yet Angel Face still appears to be something of a forgotten treasure. It's a wickedly dark Freudian picture that pulses with impending doom, luring the viewer into its web that's been threaded together by deceit, seduction, greed and madness. The viewer is never quite sure what will out as the Diane/Frank relationship starts to form, we have a good idea that Frank is in it up to his neck, and you sense he knows it as well, but the twists and turns in the narrative keep things suspenseful; right up to the bold and black hearted finale.

The themes at work in the story are beautifully aided by two compelling central performances from Mitchum (Out of the Past) and Simmons (Elmer Gantry), the former is very restrained, muscular and on iconic cigarette smoking form, the latter is suspiciously sexy, angelic yet dangerous and exuding a poker face charm. In support Mona Freeman (The Heiress) makes good out of a too small a role as the polar opposite "other" girl. Herself gorgeous, Freeman has "safe and homely" down pat, but is that enough for our rugged Frankie Jessup? Preminger (Laura/Whirlpool) directs with professional assuredness whilst getting in tight to the actors with his camera.

Stradling's (Suspicion/A Streetcar Named Desire) black and white photography is effective in capturing the Beverly Hills locale, however, it's rarely in sync with the murky themes unfolding in the plot. Too often it's too bright, too expansive, the minimal amount of shadow play is sorely felt, particularly when the action switches to the foreboding setting of the Tremayne cliff top house. It's an itch that is inflamed still further by Tiomkin's in tune score, full of melodramatic swirls and supernatural down beats, it's a score very at one with the characters and begs for some shady photography. Still, that's me being greedy and wanting chiaroscuro in full effect, Stradling was a fine photographer and surely acted on Preminger's requests for this particular movie.

Angel Face, a moody gem of a story that's punctured by moments of violence, and featuring a cast and director on song. 8/10
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Behind the Mask
dougdoepke5 July 2009
Note the Howard Hughes moniker above the title. Word was the skirt-chasing millionaire and owner of RKO was enamored of the busty Simmons at the time. So he trapped her into an exclusive contract and wooed her at a time when she was still married to fellow actor Stewart Granger. I mention this bit of gossip as background to a movie whose camera dotes on close-ups of the lovely Simmons visage. In fact, Angel Face is a perfect description, but an odd introduction of the British actress to American audiences. Of course, it helps that Hughes paired her with RKO's most popular leading man, Robert Mitchum, and imported the canny Otto Preminger to direct. Ten years earlier, Preminger's doting close-ups of a young Gene Tierney made her a star: Laura, (1944). Looks to me like this was to be a similar star-making vehicle for Simmons.

If so, it's an odd choice of roles since Diane (Simmons) is pretty much into weirder forms of derangement. She's clearly got an unnatural fixation on Dad (Marshall), schemes murderously against her stepmother, and spins a web around Frank (Mitchum) who abruptly wins her affection by slapping her. No, this is not the kind of role likely to endear a newcomer to American audiences. Then too, note that Simmons really doesn't have to do much acting. She wears the same impenetrable mask for every occasion, which is as it should be. That way, we never know what's going on behind that angelic face. On the other hand, Frank is pretty much the careless opportunist, neglecting good girl Mary (Freeman) for the attractive financial and bedroom package Diane offers. Yup, Frank just can't resist a fast woman and a fast car, and not necessarily in that order. However, we more or less have to take the screenplay's word for their mutual affection since neither performer exactly emotes his or her feelings. In my book, the best performance goes to the often overlooked Leon Ames as the cagey attorney.

At the same time, the screenplay looks like an echo of the earlier noir classic The Postman Always Rings Twice (1945). However, this edition introduces a number of interesting wrinkles. In Postman, John Garfield's hapless character is clearly guilty of colluding with spider woman Lana Turner in the death of her husband. But what exactly is Frank guilty of here, other than being a garden-variety opportunist. We understand the poetic justice brought to bear on Diane, but what about Frank. Seems to me, he gets his just desserts when Mary refuses to take him back. Keep in mind, this was Production Code time when the moral scales were supposed to balance by movie's end. As a result, I'm still not clear on what exactly Frank's crime is.

Anyway, we get a couple of spectacular car crashes, along with several long, languid mood scenes, a trademark of Preminger's. The movie definitely qualifies as film noir, but without the expressionist lighting, while Diane goes down as one of noir's more obsessive spider women. My only reservation is having the glamour girl find something of a conscience near film's end. I guess this concession makes the ending more tragic than if she remained inside her heartless bubble. However, as the climax shows, she may not be completely heartless, but she is completely selfish. And it's the ambitious Frank who pays the price for preferring this sporty model to the reliable family one. All of which proves, I guess, that the family models may not travel as fast, but in the end, they will take you farther and, more importantly, in one piece.
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