Black Widow (1954)

US / 95 minutes / color / TCF Dir & Pr & Scr: Nunnally Johnson Story: Black Widow (1952; vt Fatal Woman) by Patrick Quentin Cine: Charles G. Clarke Cast: Ginger Rogers, Van Heflin, Gene Tierney, George Raft, Peggy Ann Garner, Reginald Gardiner, Virginia Leith, Otto Kruger, Cathleen Nesbitt, Skip Homeier, Hilda Simms, Mabel Albertson, Harry Carter.

Black Widow 1954 - 0 great use of CinemaScope

A review of this movie that I read a little while ago at the The Passing Tramp blog made me go and look up my film noir encyclopedia to see why I’d left it out. I can see that the decision to do so was a conscious one: I give the movie enough of a mention in the entry on The BLACK WIDOW (1951) to remind me that I watched it and decided (rightly) that its noirish interest was too borderline for me to grant it any more of my precious printed space. Here, though, where the space is limitless . . .

Black Widow 1954 - 1 the encounter at Lottie's party

Peter (Van Heflin) encounters Nancy (Peggy Ann Garner) at a neighbor’s party.

Peter Denver (Heflin)—for some reason Johnson changed the name of author Quentin’s series character Peter Duluth—is a successful Broadway producer; his wife Iris (Tierney) is a celebrated Broadway star. Unfortunately she has to go off to New Orleans for a few weeks to tend to her sick mom. At the airport she makes him swear that he’ll go that night to the party being thrown by Lottie Marin (Rogers), their upstairs neighbor and the star of Peter’s latest hit production, Star Rising. Peter obeys the letter of Iris’s law; seconds after arriving at the party, though, Continue reading

Eight Witnesses (1950)

UK, WG / 62 minutes / bw / Bavaria Filmkunst, Princess, Vitapix Dir: Lawerence Huntington (i.e., Lawrence Huntington) Pr: Gene Martel Scr: Halsted Welles Cine: Bruno Stephan Cast: Peggy Ann Garner, Dennis Price, Dr. Charles Jacquemar, Wolfgang Buettner, Christian Dorn, Ernst Fritz Fuerbringer, Gerhard Kittler, Auguste Hansen-Kleinmichel, Heinz Beck.

Brilliant scientist Ernst Hildebrund (Jacquemar) escapes from behind the Iron Curtain into Austria, where he heads for Vienna to make contact with the British Military Intelligence agent who’s been wooing him toward defection, Allan Peters (Price). His escape, as he leaps from a train at a border crossing and is chased through swirling mists by armed guards intent on shooting him down like a dog, is something of a pièce de résistance, especially in the context of a postwar cheapie like this.

After Hildebrund phones Allan from a callbox and is told to wait where he his, the frightened scientist is spooked by a couple of sinister-seeming strangers and instead heads to the library for the blind where his daughter Helen (Garner) is a librarian. Allan, who has been romancing her just in case of such an eventuality, heads there too. Of course, the bad guys have likewise guessed Hildebrund might make contact with his daughter, and have planted one of their number (Buettner) there as a supposedly blind reader. When Hildebrund arrives, terrified by now of everyone, he hides an envelope containing his secret formula in a book on the cart pushed around by library staffer Carl (Dorn), who happens to be an undercover operative working with Allan. The fake blind man kills Hildebrund but, unable to find the document, heads back to his superior (Kittler), who’s operating out of a fully functional bakery.

Eight Witnesses - the 8 witnesses ... plus oneEight witnesses . . . plus one!

Allan arrives—too late!—and investigates, interviewing the eight genuinely blind readers who shared a table with the faker. Of course, being blind, they can’t tell him much, although one of their number Continue reading