Friday, 4 January 2013

JANUARY 4, 2013

004 THE WEB (1947) Directed by Michael Gordon ***

Michael Gordon had quite a diverse career which included Jose Ferrer's CYRANO DE BERGERAC and being a director favoured by Doris Day. In this later capacity he was responsible for the delightfully silly chiller MIDNIGHT LACE which had poor Doris menaced in the London fog by a maniac. With THE WEB he delivers a really enjoyable film noir. Forget the plot as anybody with two brain cells to rub together will figure out what is going on almost before it happens, but it has a terrific cast headed by Edmund O'brien and the lovely Ella Raines. Vincent Price is on top form as the suave villain abetted by John Abbott. Abbott was rarely given a chance to shine although his turns  as a particularly intelligent bloodsucker in THE VAMPIRE'S GHOST and a killer in THE BLACKOUT MURDERS are worth catching. William Bendix is at his best as the tough, no nonsense, cop who has everything figured out right from the beginning, unlike O'Brien who seems very gullible for the smart attorney he is supposed to be.

005 ONE BODY TOO MANY (194 ) Directed by Frank MacDonald  ***

A will is about to be read, a stormy night, a vanishing corpse, secret passages, the beautiful heir in peril and a sinister butler. In terms of originality this old dark house horror/comedy offers no surprises but it stand out as a cracking example of this sub-genre. It has a first class cast led by Jack Haley and Jean Parker who are more than ably backed up by the likes of Bela Lugosi, Lyle Talbot and Douglas Fowley.  Although Bela is used, yet again, as a red herring, he plays his role as the sinister butler with enthusiasm and the running joke about the coffee ("This coffee won't keep you awake") is done nicely and raises a smile if not a laugh. But the real reason this film stands out from others in similar vein is its pace. Graced with a better than average cast and script Frank MacDonald keeps things moving with not a minute wasted.

One Body Too Many

006 THE MAN IN THE ATTIC (1953) Directed by Hugo Fregonese ***

       Fregonese, like Robert Florey and Edgar Ulmer, was one of those foreign born (Brazil in Fregonese's case) directors who occasionally turned in offbeat work which achieves for them a cult reputation. My personal favourites among his films are BLACK TUESDAY and his Argentinian "Western" SAVAGE PAMPAS. If I say that THE MAN IN THE ATTIC is a perfectly good reworking of the oft filmed THE LODGER by Mrs. Belloc Lowndes - twice filmed with Ivor Novello (once with Hitchcock at the helm) and so memorably in the Forties by John Brahm with Laird Cregar - I'd probably be doing it an injustice. Jack Palance is excellent as the mysterious Mr.Slade, achieving a nice balance between the sympathetic and the sinster and once free from the confines of the boarding house Fregonese's direction comes to life with some atmospheric Whitechapel street sets.  There are two musical numbers set in a theatre that, despite being set in 1888 bear all the marks of 1950's Hollywood and jar against the tone of the rest of the film.

There is an interesting little  "mystery" in that the heroine of the piece, played by Constance Smith, is an actress whose dresser/maid is shown to be an Asian lady. It seems odd that this should be in the script with no explanation, especially in Hollywood at the time,  The explanation may lay with the Brahm 1944 version where the actress was played by Merle Oberon.  Oberon really did have an Asian Dresser/maid.  Oberon, although it was not revealed until years later, was of mixed race and her maid was really her mother, although few people knew it. I find it difficult to believe that this was a coincidence.

The Man in the Attic

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