This is a beautifully photographed, in CinemaScope and Deluxe Color, hauntingly scored, gripping thriller, with four lead actors who were, curiously, 20th Century Fox contract players, yet the film was released by United Artists. Robert Wagner gives the performance of a lifetime as the coolly handsome psychopathic college man residing with his mother (Mary Astor) and a plan for money, by dating an heiress (Joanne Woodward). In a framework similar to "Psycho" (1960), (and a mid-section foreshadowing "Vertigo" with its high building, a fall, and introducing another woman), a long prologue results in a ghastly demise. Woodward's savvy sister (Virginia Leith), with some help from a professor (Jeffrey Hunter) searches for a killer, almost gets done in herself in a suspenseful climax. "Psycho" similarities include an tracking-shot opening of two lovers distraught in bed, two sisters, two darkly handsome leading men, a mother, two murders. 1950s style icons (still quite retro today) are seen in startling abundance here: shiny red convertibles, college sweaters, slinky theme song, swoop skirts, the jukebox, poodle haircuts, greasy kids stuff hairstyles, etc. Woodward is wonderful and tragic as the first sister, Hunter offers able support, George MacCready is sturdy as the girls' father, while Astor, in a handful of scenes, conveys a true picture of a slightly slatternly, doting mother. The stunning Leith basically carries the last half of the picture and acquits herself well; she never really got her due in films, but is seen in the best advantage here. Also, this movie can be seen as a companion piece to the 1950s Italy set "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (1999). Chilling, very well-presented.
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