The Unseen (1945)

vt Her Heart in Her Throat; vt Fear
US / 80 minutes / bw / Paramount Dir: Lewis Allen Assoc Pr: John Houseman Scr: Hagar Wilde, Raymond Chandler, Ken Englund Story: Midnight House (1942; vt Her Heart in Her Throat) by Ethel Lina White Cine: John F. Seitz Cast: Joel McCrea, Gail Russell, Herbert Marshall, Phyllis Brooks, Isobel Elsom, Norman Lloyd, Mikhail Rasumny, Elisabeth Risdon, Tom Tully, Nona Griffith, Richard Lyon, Mary Field, Sarah Padden.

In the small New England town of New Bristol, the imposing pile at 11 Crescent Drive was boarded up twelve years ago after its owner, Commodore Tygarth, died. Now his much younger widow (Elsom), is planning to open “The Commodore’s Folly” and put it on the market.

Sarah Padden as Alberta.

One rainy night an old woman, Alberta (Padden), sees a light moving behind the boards. Pausing to investigate, she drops a watch—a treasured gift from her mother. Before she can find it on the ground, a man rushes out of the house and pursues her into nearby Salem Alley, where he strangles her. Little does he know he’s been observed . . .

Next day Continue reading

The Naked Edge (1961)

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A tense little psychological thriller — and it’s Gary Cooper’s last movie!
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UK, US / 97 minutes / bw / Glass–Seltzer, Pennebaker–Baroda, UA Dir: Michael Anderson Pr: Walter Seltzer, George Glass Scr: Joseph Stefano Story: First Train to Babylon (1955) by Max Ehrlich Cine: Erwin Hillier Cast: Gary Cooper, Deborah Kerr, Eric Portman, Diane Cilento, Hermione Gingold, Peter Cushing, Michael Wilding, Ronald Howard, Ray McAnally, Sandor Elès, Wilfrid Lawson, Helen Cherry, Joyce Carey, Diane Clare, Frederick Leister, Martin Boddey, Peter Wayn.

Six years ago, Jason Roote (Boddey), owner and CEO of the Jason Roote Air Freight Corporation, was stabbed to death one night in his office. Only two other employees were on the premises that evening, doing overtime: sales manager George “Cliffe” Radcliffe (Cooper) and lowlier staffer Donald Heath (McAnally). Cliffe heard Roote’s death cry and saw the murderer running away; he and a cop (uncredited) gave chase and Continue reading

Witness for the Prosecution (1982 TVM)

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A very good remake of a classic movie!
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UK, US / 102 minutes / color / United Artists Dir: Alan Gibson Pr: Norman Rosemont Scr: John Gay Story: “Traitor’s Hands” (1925 Flynn’s Weekly) and Witness for the Prosecution (1953 play), both by Agatha Christie, and the screenplay for Witness for the Prosecution (1957) by Billy Wilder, Harry Kurnitz and Larry Marcus Cine: Arthur Ibbetson Cast: Ralph Richardson, Deborah Kerr, Beau Bridges, Donald Pleasence, Wendy Hiller, Diana Rigg, David Langton, Richard Vernon, Peter Sallis, Michael Gough, Frank Mills, Michael Nightingale, Peter Copley, Patricia Leslie, Primi Townsend.

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Christie’s play has been filmed several times. The most famous adaptation is quite clearly Billy Wilder’s 1957 movie Witness for the Prosection, featuring Charles Laughton, Elsa Lanchester, Tyron Power and, in what’s effectively an unorthodox version of the femme fatale role, Marlene Dietrich.

Because of the fame of the Wilder adaptation, it’s easy to think it must have been the first. Not so. As far as I can gather, the first movie adaptation was Continue reading

Chambre Ardente, La (1962)

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An ancient curse, a modern crime!

vt The Burning Court; vt Das Brennende Gericht; vt I Peccatori della Foresta Nera
France, Italy, West Germany / 109 minutes / bw / International, UFA-Comacico, Taurus Dir: Julien Duvivier Pr: Julien Duvivier, Yvon Guézel Scr: Julien Duvivier, Charles Spaak Story: The Burning Court (1937) by John Dickson Carr Cine: Roger Fellous Cast: Nadja Tiller, Jean-Claude Brialy, Perrette Pradier, Édith Scob, Walter Giller, Duvallès, Héléna Manson, René Génin, Claude Piéplu, Dany Jacquet, Gabriel Jabour (i.e., Gabriel Jabbour), Laurence Belval, Antoine Balpêtré, Claude Rich, Carl Brake.

Chambre Ardente - 0a opener 1

Chambre Ardente - 0b opener 2

The celebrated John Dickson Carr mystery novel upon which this is based was at the time somewhat controversial, because its solution more than hinted that the supernatural was involved; for obvious reasons, this was regarded by mystery buffs as breaking the rules. (I remember reading the novel many years ago, and I’m surprised that this element didn’t trouble me. In my mystery reading I’m usually pretty prim about such infractions.) The conclusion to the movie, too, breaks the rules of straightforward mystery plotting, albeit in a different way—one that may well infuriate some viewers.

The movie starts with a scrolled and spoken preamble:

“On July 17, 1676, Marie d’Aubray, Marquise de Brinvilliers, accused of witchcraft practice[s] and convicted of having poisoned her father, her two brothers and numerous other persons, was burnt at the stake on a Paris square, after having had her head cut off. Her ashes were thrown to the wind. Before her death she cursed the lover that betrayed her and all his descendants. The following tells the story of that curse.”

Today (i.e., in the early 1960s) Mathias Desgrez (Duvallès), the last direct descendant of Emile Desgrez—the cop who disguised himself as a priest to infiltrate the convent where Marie was hiding, became her lover and then turned her over to the authorities—is living near-eremitically in the grand chateau he built in the Black Forest for his wife, who alas died young. The only people he sees with any regularity are his nurse, Myra Schneider (Tiller), his housemaid, Frieda Schiller (Jacquet), his married housekeeper and gardener, Augusta Henderson (Manson) and Frédéric Henderson (Génin), and a neighbor, Dr. Hermann (Balpêtré), a genial doctor stripped of his license some years ago for performing an abortion. The two old men have fun exploring the occult together, although Continue reading