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Old friends Ward and Phillip both become smitten with Phillip's mother's attractive young secretary Stella. But Stella marries Phillip and stands by him as his behavior becomes more and more erratic and his jealousy of Ward increases.Written by
Ron Kerrigan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
James Hilton was not a great novelist, but he was a popular one in the 1930s and 1940s, and two of his books have managed to become minor classics. Both also were the basis of popular films: LOST HORIZON and GOODBYE MR. CHIPS. But, oddly enough, they were not the only Hilton novels that made it to the screen, nor the only two that became classic films. RANDOM HARVEST can be added to his novels that became film classics. And he also wrote his "Crippen" novel, WE ARE NOT ALONE (which starred Paul Muni and Dame Flora Robson), and this film, RAGE IN HEAVEN. In story it actually resembles RANDOM HARVEST a bit: In that film Ronald Colman is an amnesiac from World War I who escapes from an asylum, and eventually turns out to be the head of a large industrial empire. In RAGE IN HEAVEN Robert Montgomery is a paranoid who flees an asylum in France, and turns out to be the head of a large industrial empire. But Colman's character is intelligent and fair minded - a good boss. Montgomery is argumentative, harsh, and (ultimately) incompetent and cowardly. One can say that RAGE IN HEAVEN is the dark side of RANDOM HARVEST.
Robert Montgomery's film career is one of the most aggravating in Hollywood history. He built up a career in the 1930s playing cads and bounders in MGM comedies, with an occasionally good comic hero role (THE LAST OF MRS. CHEYNEY and TROUBLE FOR TWO come to mind). Then he got the plum role of the psychopathic Danny in NIGHT MUST FALL, and an Oscar nomination for best actor in 1937. But he did not get the Oscar (Spencer Tracy did). I have always suspected that had Montgomery won the Oscar he deserved to his name would be properly remembered today, as more than just a good actor who was the father of television's "Samantha", Elizabeth Montgomery. Instead, while he still had some good parts later in his career (many as a director and producer, as well as actor), he never got the recognition he thoroughly deserved.
It is obvious that RAGE IN HEAVEN was meant to be a follow-up "psycho" role for Montgomery, following Danny. But Phillip Morell is not as well done as Danny, probably because NIGHT MUST FALL was a play by Emlyn Williams originally, and so it was easier to transfer it to the screen than Hilton's novel. But then, LOST HORIZON, MR. CHIPS, and RANDOM HARVEST were well done screenplays too. Danny (for all his murderous habits) has his human moments, but Phillip doesn't. Phillip is always under-spoken and wide eyed. He always is on the verge of exploding (and similarly of collapsing - witness the moment the Union leadership force their way into his office to confront him over his unwillingness to settle the labor impasse, and how he just collapses and runs out yelling, "Give them whatever they want!"). A modern treatment might develop his mania somewhat. It is obvious that Hilton understood what paranoids were capable of - the business about the hidden confession in the diary rings true - but it is still not developed enough for the audience to understand. We know that Phillip's father was insane (and committed suicide) but more details are needed.
It was Ingrid Bergman's third or fourth American film. She was slowly inching her way to real stardom (she had touched it opposite Leslie Howard in the Hollywood version of INTERMEZZO), but her performance, while natural, is not very memorable. George Sanders again demonstrates his dependability in any role, here as a good guy almost destroyed by his mad friend. Oscar Homolka does a good job as the asylum head, whose assistance to Bergman saves Sanders in the end. It is not as good a film as it should have been with a better laid out script, but it is watchable one or two times.
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