On trial for murdering his girlfriend, philandering stockbroker Larry Ballentine takes the stand to claim his innocence and describe the actual, but improbable sounding, sequence of events that led to her death.
On trial for murder, Larry Ballentine regurgitates an unbelievable story. He recounts how he philanders with other women while his rich, loving wife Greta tries to keep him in line. According to Larry, his girlfriend Verna dies accidentally in a car crash and his distraught wife tosses herself over a cliff after he runs out on her. The jury has a tough decision on this one.Written by
Gary Jackson <email@example.com>
When RKO re-released this in 1957, they cut it down from 95 minutes to 80 minutes, for more convenient double-billing, a typical practice at that time, especially for RKO. Turner Classic Movies repeatedly shows the 80 minute version, despite the fact that the 95 minute version has been restored and is marketed on DVD. See more »
When Larry and Verna are driving to Reno and the truck veers in front of them, the windshield cracks before they collide. See more »
Reissue prints have been cut to 80 minutes. This is the version currently being shown on TCM. The uncut 95 minute original release is available on a long out-of-print laserdisc, released by Image Entertainment in 1990. See more »
Intricately plotted noir with one too many surprises for my book, but is still underrated. Nice guy Robert Young gets to break character and play a real heel for a change. He's not wicked, just weak, following his wife around because that's where the money is. He's about as faithful as a Tom cat in heat, but she's too dependent to care. Even his one noble gesture ends in a fiery crash.
Young looks the part of a married gigolo, all slicked down in fancy suits, sipping martinis in upscale bars. But then who could resist that luscious package Susan Hayward even if she is just an office girl with scheming ambition. Their gambits of conversation amount to little gems of carnal aggression. Pity poor wife Rita Johnson who's all business-like competence, but can hardly compete in the glamor department with either Hayward or the sultry Greer. The faithful stallion is, I guess, her consolation prize and an excellent touch. He's like the eye of fate watching from above the mountain pool in a meaningful moment that foreshadows the reckoning yet to come.
In passing-- I can't help noticing the true-love embrace of Hayward and Young washed clean now in the mountain lake and the similarly meaningful ocean scene of Garfield and Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice. The aftermaths look also suspiciously similar. Postman came out about six months earlier than this one, so draw your own conclusions.
Too bad director Pichel adds so little to the screenplay. Indeed, the story's strong enough to carry interest; still, he films in straightforward, unimaginative fashion. The cross-currents and conflicts, however, cry out for a stronger expressionistic approach, especially the waterfall and pool scenes. A better noir director like Siodmak or Lang could have deepened the visuals to complement the strong screenplay. Also, someone muffs the staging of the very last scene which comes across as incredible given the crowded courtroom and police guards. It also distracts from an interesting ambiguity-- is Young too weak to face a verdict or has he simply passed judgement on himself.
For those of us who remember the wholesome TV series Father Knows Best, seeing Young here takes some getting used to.
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