Friday, 1 February 2008


I met Otto Preminger very briefly when he was in London filming BUNNY LAKE IS MISSING. Although I was very much in awe of him I got the strong impression that he was not the most pleasant of men. This was very much confirmed by some of the stories that filtered back from the film’s locations in Hampstead, London, and remarks made by some of my colleagues who had much more contact with him than my few moments. It is said that Rouben Mamoulian, the original director of the classic film noir LAURA had difficulty coming to terms with the self-centered meanness of that film’s characters so Otto was called in to take over the production. The result was a classic movie – no small part because Preminger understood the characters so well. WHIRLPOOL also has a set of flawed characters but with one exception they lack the downright self-serving meanness of those in the previous film. However the exception, the film’s hypnotist villain, played superbly by Jose Ferrer (and this is no spoiler as his villainy is revealed almost immediately), makes up for it by the bucket load. After being caught shoplifting, the wife of a successful psychiatrist is saved from arrest and embassment by the intervention of a hypnotist (Ferrer). At first it seems that her suave rescuer has blackmail on his mind but it soon transpires that his true motive is far more sinister. WHIRLPOOL is a gripping thriller, maybe not quite top drawer film noir(one has top admit that the plot by Ben Hecht and Andrew Solt is very silly if examined too closely), but great entertainment thanks to the truly bizarre method used to commit the murder and the superior cast which is headed by the truly beautiful Gene Tierney, Richard Conte and Charles Bickford. I first saw WHIRLPOOL about fifty years ago and the scene where how the crime was committed is revealed burned indelibly into my young mind. I also know that I was aware of Jose Ferrer as an actor (long before any of the other stars would have registered.) Seeing it again recently I was surprised that I did not remember any other scene or plot detail. However, it was nice to catch up with this atmospheric thriller again. Rating ***

1 comment:

Cerpts said...

Ahhh, I've never seen WHIRLPOOL but I must agree that Gene Tierney was possibly one of the most beautiful people in the history of the human race. I'm gonna have to watch out for this movie. And surely Ms. Tierney makes the top of the list as one of the most evil film portrayals of the 40's for LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN. Chilling.