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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>
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Excellent and entertaining movie in many regards. The 1950's atmosphere is caught very well: elegant clothing, superb cars, leafy New York streets, New York's Grand Central Station and a cameo role for the shiny Chicago Express. The OST by George Delarue too is worth while listening to. It does more than just underpin the action in the movie, it stands perfectly well on its own legs.
I've noticed some reviewers made a link between the looks of Ray Salwen (Mandy Patinkin) and a young Richard Nixon, who was heading the House on Un- American Activities Committee (HUAC) in the early fifties. I'd rather compare the smug Salwen figure with Roy Cohn, McCarthy's right hand and ax man. (Patinkin would have been a perfect choice for the main role of "Citizen Cohn" in 1992, although James Woods too did a nice job) As other reviewers have pointed out, there are indeed some similarities with Hitchcock movies from the 1950's. All shots show clean streets, nice looking people, shiny cars You won't see any hoodlums, hobo's, mean looking motorcycle gang members. There's not even the page of a newspaper pushed around by the wind in the New York streets. Even the bad guys that kill the German young man with a knife are dressed up as if they come from the horses or some fancy restaurant. The romance between McGillis and FBI man Cochran (Daniels) too is treated in a very 1950's way. To many viewers, this will be seen as a lack of chemistry between the two main characters. However, to my h.o. an all too steamy relationship would have somehow spoiled this elegant movie, and especially slowed down the pace considerably.
OK, there are a number of weak points in the scenario: it's highly improbable that a hush hush operation of smuggling Nazi's into the US would have used such an "unsafe safe-house" as the one in Carroll Street. ID papers would have been arranged for, while those war criminals were still in Europe, to reduce as much as possible the risks. And it's rather silly seeing a Senator's aide going as far as entering into Emily's bathroom. Very intimidating, OK, but I'd rather think this kind of a job would have been left to some low ranking goons. And finally, what the heck is he doing on the roof of New York's Grand Central Station ??? Still, nobody complains about similar weaknesses in let's say "North by Northwest", or "Sabotage". Indeed, this movie doesn't pretend being a semi-documentary, like De Niro's "Guilty by suspicion" (1991) or Citizen Cohn are. And as pure entertainment, House on Carroll Street does a nice job. I'd rate it 8/10
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