I know this isn’t your guarantee of quality, but it’s always interesting to see these words on the screen nowadays:
The name is so steeped in myth it’s like seeing “Rockefeller Casanova.” His gift to us:
It begins with an ambulance roaring out of the Beverly Hills Fire Department.
I believe this is the same place. Lost its filigrees over the years, alas. The meat wagon heads up the hills to the obligatory brooding mansion, where a woman has been overcome by gas. It takes about 3 minutes to figure out that something is amiss in the house, thanks to this young woman:
Jean Peters. She wears a wig and a slight mustache throughout the entire film. Damaged goods, this one. She sets her sights on the big hunk who drives the ambulance, and as Eddie Mueller describes the scene in “Dark City”: Start making up a room in hell for these two.
How you feel about the movie might depend on how you feel about this guy. He has three speeds, really. #1: Something ain’t right but I’ll deal with it later:
#2: Ah, who gives a damn:
#3: Primo bud, dude:
As Eddie Mueller points out on the commentary track, Michum was a cowboy in his early roles, and he never quite stopped acting like one, even in films with modern settings. Well, as you might imagine, the femme-fatale applies her wiles, and her money, and pulls the galoot away from the Decent On-the-Level Blonde he’d been seeing, and it’s all sex and murder from then on. It’s any one of a dozen other noirs, except for two things: Otto Preminger produced and directed, and Dmitri Tonkin wrote the score. Between the two of them they managed to soak the movie in haunted, languorous doom, and you can’t get more noir than haunted, languorous doom. (Unless it’s spiraling frantic doom.) There’s a scene where the bad little rich girl wanders through the empty house while her theme plays, walking through the rooms of people she loved, killed, or drove away; not a word is spoken, and her face hardly moves a muscle - I guarantee you won’t shake the scene, ever. I can’t. It’s possible I was in a mood to enjoy the film, and it may strike you as simple B all the way, but it got under my skin - probably because of the music. Also, the ending is a two-by-four in the head, and leaves you with your jaw in your lap.
Plus, the District Attorney is Mr. Magoo: