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Stylish, satisfying ‘40s mystery every bit the equal of Laura – but overlooked
bmacv29 December 2003
Michael Curtiz plays a sly game in The Unsuspected – a marvelous mystery that manages to preserve the venerable trappings of the English weekend-at-the-country-house murder (with some of the gimmickry that implies) while setting it amid a nest of Manhattan smart-mouths. He shows us who the murderer is in the first few minutes of the movie (and echoes his revelation several times) but does it so glancingly that it fails to register. And even if it did, The Unsuspected proves such a banquet of writing, acting and visual detail – such as the neon sign on a hotel in Peekskill flashing only its four last letters to a room inside – that it wouldn't be spoiled at all.

Looming shadows stalk through the baronial upstate manse of Victor Grandison (the ineffable Claude Rains), host of a wildly popular true-crime radio show. Next thing, his loyal secretary is hanging from a chandelier (an apparent suicide, but we know better). This ghastly occurrence doesn't faze the house's other occupants – his gold-digging niece (Audrey Totter) and her boozehound husband (Hurd Hatfield), possibly because Totter was on the phone with the victim as she uttered her last scream but never bothered to report it. Or it could be that everybody's still in shock over the loss of another niece (Joan Caulfield), who has perished in a ship's fire while crossing the Atlantic.

Into their lives strides a Mysterious Stranger (Ted North), claiming to be Caulfield's widower. He's received variously: Rains treats him with cordial suspicion, Hatfield with glum distaste (he had a thing for Caulfield, too) while Totter throws herself at him, `vibrating.' And then who should turn up, safe and reasonably sound, but Caulfield herself. The plot is admittedly a little complicated (made more so by the resemblance between North and Hatfield, with their bland, unhappy faces, and between Totter and Constance Bennett, who could pass as her older sister (playing the Eve Arden role of the wise-cracking spinster helpmate). But it's nothing that a few more homicides can't clear up....

With Casablanca and Mildred Pierce behind him, Curtiz was at the height of his powers for The Unsuspected, and Warners plainly gave him full rein for this lavish production. He's matched every step of the way by the wondrous Woody Bredell, who supplies richly detailed, always evocative cinematography (it's a smashing-looking movie). Nor does the script falter: Every line gleams with witty malice. Though Caulfield unfathomably gets top billing, she pales next to Rains and Totter in top form, with Bennett a close runner-up. The movie boasts just about everything.

Why, then, isn't it better known? Usually labeled film noir, it's really more of a high-style ‘40s sophisticated mystery, as was Otto Preminger's Laura (and, like Laura, it hinges on a beautiful young woman, presumed dead, who unexpectedly re-emerges). But while Laura receives reverent homage as an evergreen classic (`They don't make ‘em like that anymore'), The Unsuspected remains relatively unknown except to fans of the noir cycle. Yet it's every bit at good a movie – certainly no less plausible – and honed to an even finer level of elegance. Go figure.
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an overlooked, forgotten gem
edward-miller-123 June 2003
Bravo, TCM, for showing this. I haven't seen it since I was in my teens thirty years ago. It is similar but in many ways superior to Laura. The major flaw of Laura is that it is impossible to believe that Clifton Webb has a great, overriding physical passion for Gene Tierney. There is no such nonsense in The Unsuspected. This is a highly atmospheric, evocative and literate noir set in the sophisticated world of radio and literary circles. We have a powerful, understated performance from Rains alternating between the likeable and sinister. He was one of the very few actors who could pull this kind of thing off (i.e. Notorious, Deception).I take great exception to a previous comment here about a "throwaway cast." Throwaway? Audrey Totter? Constance Bennett? Hurd Hatfield? The too little seen Fred Clark? Hardly throwaway! Totter's performance is etched in acid and this, with her job in Tension, is the best of this fabulous lady's career! She and Bennett here play both sides of the bitch coin. Totter is the nasty side, Bennett the amusing and brittle side. Both of theses dames bring life to dialogue that even on paper would be smart. If you love Warner Brothers, Rains, Totter, Bennett, or noir in general, this is a tasty treat.
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Xanadu-231 August 2004
Nice atmospheric thriller with excellent black and white photography and with chilling use of shadows! The film is inspired by both "Rebecca" and "Laura", and maybe "Suspicion" i suspect... The murderer is obvious but it is still entertaining with a good script!

Loveley performances by Hollywood pros like Claude Rains, Constance Bennet and the underrated Audrey Totter always worth seeing!

This was my first Joan Caulfield movie, apparently a starlet at the end of the 40s, a good actress but a bit forgettable. I love these film noirs from the golden age of Hollywood. Golden age of filmmaking, actually...
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One of the forgotten gems of '40s film noir...
Doylenf8 May 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Claude Rains is the smoothly cultured radio narrator of murder mysteries, who turns to murder out of a consuming greed for possessions, including his niece's mansion. He is like the Waldo Lydecker character portrayed by Clifton Webb in 'Laura'--a witty, decadent murderer trapped in a world of his own dark machinations.

This is one of those forgotten gems of film noir from the '40s. Director Michael Curtiz adds some stylistic touches to the proceedings, as does Woody Bredell's photography of handsome interiors. There are vivid performances from Constance Bennett as a wise-cracking producer, Joan Caulfield as his frightened niece, Audrey Totter, Hurd Hatfield and Michael North (who for some reason had a brief screen career).

Handsomely produced and based on a Charlotte Armstrong novel, it benefits greatly from classic low-key film noir lighting and the expert performances of an all-star cast. For some reason, it has fallen between the cracks as far as visiblity goes, shown only occasionally on cable TV.
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Such a Charming Radio Host and Guardian...
theowinthrop23 June 2006
Years ago I actually saw a paperback version of the novel by Charlotte Armstrong that this movie is based on...and foolishly I did not buy it. That was before I saw it on television (about 1979). It rarely is shown, possibly because it's excellent title is overshadowed by two other excellent films THE UNINVITED and THE UNFORGIVEN (not to mention the television series and Kevin Costner film THE UNTOUCHABLES).

Victor Grandison (known to his admirers, friends, and loving family as "Grandy") hosts a radio program which retells classic true murder cases from America's and Britain's past. He is based (like Waldo Lydecker, Sheridan Whiteside, and - to an extent - Addison DeWitt) on Alexander Woolcott, the critic and member of the Algonquin Set and radio host ("The Town Cryer") who loved to discuss old murder cases too (in THE MAN WHO CAME TO DINNER Woolcott/Whiteside meets Lizzy Borden/Elizabeth Sedley). Grandy is the guardian for two nieces, Audrey Totter (married to the frequently drunken Hurd Hatfield), and Joan Caulfield. Caulfield is presently abroad, but word has come back that she was killed in a fire. On top of this, Grandy's secretary has apparently committed suicide - although Totter is not quite sure it was a suicide. Shortly afterward, a man shows up (Ted North) claiming to be Caulfield's husband (and, if she is dead, heir to her estate being handled by guardian Rains). Then Caulfield shows up - back from the dead as it were - and she can't recall marrying North!

The film's villain is not difficult to fathom - Rains has no real rival figures to play against here for that honor. Jack Lambert gives good support as Rains' criminal assistant.

Several comments are made about the very witty screenplay, particularly Constant Bennett's lines. But there are other moments of humor for some of the other characters, including one for Rains which caused me to momentarily feel some compassion for him. In one of his schemes, he has to isolate a potential victim in his country mansion. His butler Kent (Harry Lewis) will probably be upstairs in his apartment that night. With his kindest looking face, Rains goes over to hard working Lewis and says that he needs to relax and gives him two tickets to his radio program on the night the mansion has to be empty. Lewis is speechless for a moment, but then says something "unexpected". "Thank you Mr. Grandison," says Lewis/Kent, "but I have to admit that I don't think I'll take them." Rains is amazed. "Why not?", he asks. "Well, you see Mr. Grandison, I know it sounds odd but I have never listened to your program at all." Rains face is beginning to redden up a bit. "The fact is Mr. Grandison," says Lewis/Kent, "Your murder stories scare me too much!" Rains has heard enough by this time. This is more than just clearing his house for his own private murder plot - it's his reputation at stake here. "Let's put it this way Kent." Rains says with white pursed lips, "Do you like your job here?" Kent took the tickets, and Rains looked satisfied if a bit less than amused.

Good film this.
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Forgotten thriller
preppy-38 October 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Claude Rains plays Victor Grandison--a mild-mannered man who tells spooky tales over the radio and, in his spare time, kills anyone who stands in his way of an inheritance. Good thriller opens with a really scary murder and keeps right on going. The script is sharp and tight with many twists and turns. All the acting is good--especially by Rains and Audrey Totter as a bitchy niece. The cast also includes two of the handsomest men in Hollywood in 1947--Hurd Hatfield (who made films into the 90s) and Michael North (who completely disappeared after this film). Director Michael Curtiz uses shadow and light very effectively and reflection of people (especially Rains). Great climatic chase too. Well worth seeing. It seems that this movie has been forgotten which is a real shame--it's one of the best film noirs from Hollywood.
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Who is the unsuspected?
krorie29 March 2006
To answer the question, "Who is the unsuspected?" the viewer must wait until the very end of the film. In reality, the unsuspected is revealed toward the beginning of the movie. So though there aren't any real surprises--this is not a mystery--there is a big helping of suspense and thrills along the way. The viewer also gets a glimpse of old time radio just before television took over. Victor "Grandi" Grandison (Claude Rains) is a big time radio personality whose main claim to fame is telling creepy, murder stories, read from a script he helped write, to a large radio audience. Several scenes take place during the broadcast inside the radio studio. The viewer gets to see all the hand signals and day to day activities involved in a live broadcast in those days. Many radio shows were transcribed (recorded on huge record discs) both for posterity and for possible re-broadcasts. Grandi makes these for nefarious purposes also. How they are made is shown in great detail.

With lines such as "We missed you while you were dead," this is one of the best film noir screenplays of the 1940's. One of the great femme fatales of the era, Audrey Totter as Althea Keane, gets some of the wittiest lines, which she delivers with élan. So listen carefully when she speaks. She dominates every scene she's in. The only one in the cast who comes close to her acting talents is Claude Rains. In some ways his part closely resembles the character he played the year before in the Hitchcock classic "Notorious," the master spy Alexander Sebastian. While Althea's husband, the tipsy Oliver (Hurd Hatfield), also shines, his role is fairly cut and dried with only brief appearances. The others in the cast are more than adequate, in particular Jack Lambert as Mr. Press, a violent, shady character who is blackmailed into doing dirty work for Grandi.

Michael Curtiz knowingly directs in noir fashion with crisp black and white photography surrounded by rainy, spooky nights making the audience believe that danger lurks in the shadows. Curtiz makes sure the film is fast-paced. There is even an exciting chase at the end involving Jack Lambert recklessly driving through traffic in a pickup truck, attempting to destroy evidence at the city dump before the motorcycle cops catch up with him.

The music blends in with the story. For example, when Grandi comes home unsuspected, his birthday party is in full swing. The piano man fills the room with "Someone To Watch Over Me." Grandi is unnerved by the tune and makes a snide remark to Matilda Frazier (Joan Caulfield) to the effect that he would like to fire the piano player. Neglected for years, critics and noir fans are just now discovering this intriguing movie.
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Stylish, but Weakly Structured
dougdoepke5 November 2009
This is certainly one of the most lushly photographed of all noirs. Hardly a set-up goes by without an eye-catching furbelow of one kind or another, thanks to cameraman Woody Bredell and Art Director Anton Grot. That's one main reason to catch up with this otherwise turgid 1947 release. Then too, except for the unfortunate Ted North, it's a stellar cast from the sleekly malevolent Rains to the coldly conniving Totter to the wittily sophisticated Bennett. However, I suspect that's one reason this richly endowed exercise failed to achieve classic status— just too many stars with too many lines that multiply subplots in a rather poorly thought-out storyline. There's simply not enough coherence and focus to generate the desired suspense of, say, a Rebecca (1940) or a Suspicion (1941), both of which the screenplay resembles. This results in a movie of bits and pieces, and a good chance to catch up with post-war high fashion. And catch that salvage yard from hell that turns up at the end, along with the behind-the-scenes glimpse of radio drama or what was then aptly called "the theater of the mind". Anyway, no movie with the commanding Claude Rains can afford to be passed up, here at his cultured and calculating best.
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Exciting, stylish mystery with Rains in top form.
robertgrimm28 May 2004
One of the fine mystery thrillers from 40's and near the top of the film noir lists. The Unsuspected is a showcase for one of Hollywood's real accomplished actors of that era, Claude Rains. Though more widely remembered for "Casablanca", "Notorius", and "Mr. Skeffington," Rains gets to show off his versatility in a starring role. As the charming but malevolent lead, Rains comes up with a very professional turn as the respected radio announcer and suspect. Pairing with him is a "femme fatale" from that time, Joan Caulfield. The bosomy, sexy blonde is more convincing here than in the light comedies she played during her career. This film dates well and will keep your interest. It's one I would like to see once more. Any readers know where a VCR copy can be purchased?
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Master Manipulator
bkoganbing26 September 2017
For his final film on his Warner Brothers contract Claude Rains got a starring role instead of being in support of one or two of Warner's name contract leads. Rains plays Victor Grandison the host of a radio mystery show where he narrates crime stories. He's a most popular host with good Hooper ratings I'm sure. Hooper by the way was the equivalent of the Nielsen ratings for television.

Rains lives well courtesy of his niece Joan Caulfield who has some large inherited wealth. There's another niece Audrey Totter who lives with them and her husband Hurd Hatfield, but not happily.

One of Rains's aides at the radio station is murdered. Then Caulfield is reported missing at sea. Before she's found Ted North arrives at the estate claiming to be her husband, but she can't remember getting married.

A couple of more deaths occur and always Rains is The Unsuspected one. What he is is a master manipulator of people and events.

The key to it all is North who is definitely not what he seems. Also Constance Bennett is around who works at the radio station. I liked her, but she's got a most ill defined role. And we never do learn why the first aide is killed.

Nevertheless Claude Rains is really giving a performance that they ought to show in acting classes. So many emotions, so subtly conveyed.

For Claude Rains fans everywhere.
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Rains Shines
Bucs196014 September 2007
Warning: Spoilers
You just can't beat Claude matter how insignificant a film may be, Rains can be counted on to give a dynamic performance. This film is a showcase for his talents. Although not a handsome man, he has great charm and elegance. He doesn't disappoint here as a popular radio star whose public persona hides a very dark side. He is intent on being the recipient of the inheritance of his niece and ward, played by Joan Caulfield. A rather complex and somewhat overwrought plot leads us through his machinations to the end which doesn't come out exactly as he planned.

The cast in this film is top drawer, although Caulfield is a bit colorless as the put-upon niece. Audrey Totter is magnificent as an acid tongued member of the family who wouldn't mind getting her hands on some of the loot as well. Hurd Hatfield (Picture of Dorian Gray) is her alcoholic husband but unfortunately doesn't have a lot to do. Jack Lambert does his "I am so evil" turn as Rain's henchman and as usual does it well. Fred Clark makes an all too brief appearance as a detective. Constance Bennett, past her days as a star, is appealing as the secretary on a mission.

"The Unsuspected" is a tight little film, which might stretch credibility just a bit but is still quite enjoyable. Hey, it's got Claude Rains as the star so how can you go wrong?
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A Very good noir
Sharclon829 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
I watched this movie because it had Claude Raines in it. And I was rewarded - this is a goody. Claude Rains, who never gave a bad performance in his life, is a smooth, sly, delectable scoundrel who pretends to be a loving Uncle; but before the movie is over kills one of his Nieces and tries his best to do away with the other - not to mention knocking off his Secretary and his Nephew. I think the reason it has been overlooked is that it seems like a "Laura" knockoff - the one by Otto Preminger starring Clifton Webb and Gene Tierney - and there are great similarities it even has the portrait of the beautiful "dead" girl hanging on the wall. But there are great differences in the two movies and therein lies the fun. Joan Caulfied plays the heroinewho has an amnesia - or does she? Or has someone caused Joan to think she has amnesia? But the pies de résistance is Audrey Totter who plays an amoral woman with such delicious gusto you really enjoy every scene she is in. It is fascinating to watch her be nasty as she does it with such panache. She very nearly steals the movie from Claude Raines - I know I sure missed her when she got killed - the movie wasn't nearly as exciting with her gone. All in all it is a good noir. In fact, very good for a "Laura" knockoff.
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Even though it is only fiction I wish the female lead would have been allowed to have a little common sense
Ed-Shullivan24 September 2017
I like a good mystery and overall The Unsuspected is a decent time waster. The cast is decent which includes Claude Rains who plays a radio personality named Victor Grandison and his radio show tells mystery and murder stories which seem to be coming true. There are two men who are both infatuated the films female lead a woman named Matilda Frazier played by the very attractive Joan Caulfield. Now one of these men whom she was engaged to be married is a man named Oliver Keane (played by Hurd Hatfield) who prefers drinking over working for a living. The second gentleman admirer is a mysterious man named Steven Howard played by Ted North.

Our female lead Matilda has been away for a spell recovering from a nervous breakdown only to find out that her second gentleman admirer, Steven Howard has just told Matilda that they were recently married. Matilda has no memory of their marriage so Steven brings her back to the justice of the peace who married them to confirm their marriage was witnessed and as a gentlemen should do, he advises Matilda that he would be willing to have their marriage annulled in a few days if that is what Matilda would prefer since she has absolutely no memory of their so called wedding day.

Murders are occurring in the radio personality Victor Grandison's home to which he has alibis for when he is interrogated by lead detective Richard Donovan played by Fred Clark. So we the audience gradually clue in to who is the actual killer and what the motive is as well. Unfortunately the next batter up to be murdered is the naive Matilda and this is where the plot becomes very weak as even the dimmest light in the barn should be able to figure out whose after her and why, but not our lovely and naive Matilda.

Lucky for Matilda one of her gentleman admirers has a good head on his shoulders and as luck would have it (luck which requires a happy ending) she is saved before she becomes the next "unsuspecting" victim, thus the film title The Unsuspected. I enjoy film-noir and this is not the best, nor is it the worst, so I rated it a decent 6 out of 10.
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Radio's Golden Age
gracchi21 October 2007
I liked this bit of film noir. The story is a bit confusing and it lacks a solid foundation for introducing and developing characters. Unlike most films, this film might have been over edited. Another 10-15 minutes of character development might have helped.

Now having said all that, what I truly liked about this film is that it is set during the golden age of radio. Its nice to have a contemporary view of this now lost and long forgotten world. We get to see a production of an "old time radio" program. We see how sound was recorded before taping became practical. Claude Rains' character is a narrator of a spooky, murder mystery radio show very much along the lines of popular radio programs such as "The Whistler" or "Suspense" or "Lights Out." Rains was perfectly cast in this role. His "radio voice" hearkens back to the day when "the Man in Black" or "the Whistler" kept millions of Americans entranced by the glowing dial in their darkened den or bedroom.
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The mystery of Ted/Michael North
gregcouture12 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
WARNING - Mini-spoilers may ensue: The sympathetic male lead in this glossy, slickly directed murder (non)mystery is played by Ted North (billed by his first name, as Michael North). He has a rather ingratiating presence and that old Hollywood pro, director Michael Curtz, coaxes a fairly convincing performance out of him. He was perhaps the first of the blonde 'bombshell' Mary Beth Hughes's several husbands, and disappeared from the Hollywood radar quite promptly after this, his final film. His IMDb biographical site lists just twenty previous film appearances (some uncredited). Wonder what happened.

Claude Rains and Audrey Totter chew the scenery with their customary relish in this one and Hurd Hatfield's visage is almost as frozen as it was when he played the title character in M-G-M's "The Picture of Dorian Gray" in 1945. Constance Bennett, looking very glamorous, is given too little to do and Joan Caulfield does about as well as can be expected with the ill-conceived role of an uncomprehending young woman in deadly peril.

Warner Brothers lavished some expense on the sets (by Anton Grot) and costuming (by Milo Anderson) and it's all very professionally photographed by Woody (Elwood) Bredell and slickly edited by Frederick Richards. Franz Waxman does his best imitation of Max Steiner with his lushly orchestrated score, but doesn't lay it on too thickly, as was frequently Steiner's wont.

One little thing stuck out, for me, is how a car that goes careening off a cliff and burns as it crashes is a cheaper model than the one seen speeding down a winding road in the immediately preceding shots. Back then the studios didn't destroy Detroit sheet metal with the profligate abandon which they do now, that's for sure!
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Great Cast of Famous Actors!
whpratt122 May 2004
Viewed this film when it was first shown in New York City and always enjoyed the great acting of Claude Rains, Constance Bennett, Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter and Hurd Hatfield. This was a very well produced picture with great photography of Long Island parkway scenes and the old water front sections of Manhattan. Claude Rains,(Victor Grandison)," Phantom of the Opera",'43, was a mystery writer and had his own radio show with all kinds of old time recording equipment and secret compartments to hide his mysterious goings on at home and in the studio. Joan Caulfied,(Matilda Frazier),"Dear Wife",'49 gave a great supporting role and was very beautiful in the close up shots of her face in black and white. Audrey Totter (Althea Keane)," Jet Attack",'58 was very sexy and attractive. Althea and Victor both knew each other very well and kept a watchful eye on each other through out the entire picture. It was nice to see Hurd Hatfield(Oliver Keane),"The Picture of Dorian Gray",'45 make an appearance in this film and played his role to perfection. There was even a car chase in the end of the picture and lots of drama in an old time JUNK YARD! Don't miss this great film, it is really worth watching.
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Sounded too much like the truth to be true!
Spikeopath6 September 2013
The Unsuspected is directed by Michael Curtiz and adapted to screenplay by Bess Meredyth and Ranald MacDougall from the novel written by Charlotte Armstrong. It stars Joan Caulfield, Claude Rains, Audrey Totter, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield and Ted North. Music is by Franz Waxman and cinematography by Elwood Bredell.

A girl has been murdered but the police think it's suicide. A woman presumed killed at sea returns to the family home and finds she has a husband she can't remember. Her uncle hosts a radio murder mystery show where the stories seem spine chillingly real. And of course there's finances to be lost or gained. Just what is going on at the Grandison Mansion?

If you don't get a hold of yourself your mind will crack!

Not as obscure as it once was, The Unsuspected has emerged as a film noir favourite in spite of its self-conscious style over substance being. With similarities to Otto Preminger's Laura, amongst others, and weakness of plot machinations, you sense that the great Michael Curtiz realised he had to up the ante in the art of expressionistic chiaroscuro to off-set the short fall elsewhere in the production. But boy does he!

Aided by Bredell (Phantom Lady/The Killers), Curtiz (Casablanca/Mildred Pierce) produces a masterclass in imaginative direction. Lighting and shadows are used to full effect in portraying the psychological discord that beats constantly in the lavish mansion where majority of the tale is set, a place where paranoia, confusion and claustrophobia finds a home. Silhouettes of crimes committed strike atmospheric chords, as do the uses of bar shadows.

As the script merrily trundles out sexually suggestive and witty barbs, the array of characters portrayed with relish by a Curtiz inspired cast, the director also inserts some stunning scenes. A neon sign deftly shot, billowing curtains suggesting turmoil, a bubbling glass of tainted champagne a foreboding presence, and many off-kilter reflections used throughout to represent duplicity or a fractured mind. Visually this is noir nirvana for sure.

If only the screenplay was as intricate as it thinks it is, where quite often the story gets saddled with giant implausibilities. As the bodies pile up the motives and means start to come off as daft, which is a shame as the radio inspired backdrop is interesting for the time. There's also a couple of well constructed action scenes, though the editing for the cars is suspect, while Hatfield raises a laugh (intentional?) when in one scene he reminds us he was Dorian Gray two years earlier.

A must see on a visual basis for the film noir enthusiast, but the core basic melodramatics of the tale may have you hankering for Laura after all. 7.5/10
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A surprisingly good watch
funkyfry6 November 2002
Warning: Spoilers

Straightforward murder mystery with an extra special cast. Rains is a "Suspense"-type radio host (all of whose broadcasts seem to run for 5 minutes) who manipulates his lovely ward (Caulfield) and her cousin (Totter, at her vinegary best) in a game of death where every inhabitant of their old house is a pawn.

Fantastic photography, particularly in the interlocking lattices that create more tension towards the end of the film. Rains is perfect as the droll host with murder up his sleave, and Michael North makes an impressive entry as a man who passes himself off as Caulfield's husband to discover the murderer of his friend, only to fall in love with his pretend wife!

Good melodrama; both me and my girlfriend were pleasantly surprised that this turned out to be such a quality little movie, and although it's not on DVD or video as far as I know, it's worth watching for on TCM.
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More Mess Than Gem
PresidentForLife29 September 2017
Many reviewers here call this a "hidden gem," but to me it's hidden for a good reason. Yes, the lighting is interesting, sort of noir Victoriana - the backgrounds are busy but dramatic and distinctive. But the plot is slow and convoluted, and it lacks the crisp narrative style of "Laura," to which some compare it. Poor Claude Rains, who is good in anything, is paired with so many actors who tower over him that his small stature is rather jarringly accentuated in many scenes. Not a total washout, but not a masterpiece either.
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A schizophrenic film
vincentlynch-moonoi24 April 2018
Warning: Spoilers
I always look forward to seeing a Claude Rains film I haven't caught before. Oh well, you can't win them all. I continued watching this film because I was marveling at just how bad it was...and I realize I'm in the minority here. I do have to make a couple of exceptions to that general statement. Claude Rains is always a marvel to watch. I find him to be a rather unique character actor, and even in this very poor film, he shined.

My first problem with the film is that I found the plot to be murky. It stumbled along in a jerky fashion. I was disappointed that the main character (Rains) had become a serial murderer...making it hard for him not to be caught.

My second problem with the film was some of the worst acting I've seen in a significant film. Audrey Totter seemed to think that good acting was how she stood or how she held her arms. As far as any believable acting...well let's put it this way...what she displayed here was an unrealistic portrayal of a human being. Hurt Hatfield didn't do much better here. I was thinking that this had to be one of the earliest films of character actor Fred Clark, and indeed, it was his first credited film role.

Rains was not the only actor who did well here. Joan Caulfield was very good also.

To our reviewers who gave this film a 9...that must have been based on a hundred point scale.
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Faked Alibis en masse
Rindiana23 December 2009
Some acidic one-liners here and there and Rains' effectively oily performance add an undeserved touch of class to the protracted proceedings.

Curtiz tries to build up a web of intrigue, but gets tangled up from the beginning. Murder and melodrama are paired in an unholy alliance while more and more corpses litter the screen and logic slowly dissolves.

In the end, you don't care much about the outcome of this unexciting crime flick.

4 out of 10 screaming secretaries
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Totally suspected
AAdaSC14 November 2017
Wealthy Joan Caulfield (Matilda) has her portrait hanging over the fire-place. She's dead. Ted North (Steven) turns up at her house claiming to be her husband but her uncle Claude Rains (Victor) is suspicious. North looks like a Thunderbirds puppet. Secretary Barbara Woodell (Rosalyn) has been murdered in the house but at the moment everyone thinks it is suicide. Or do they? Things need investigating. And who's that getting on a plane….it looks like Caulfield.

The film has a glossy, stylish feel to it and you can probably guess what's going on after a bit of initial trial and error. After about an hour, you are in no doubt as to what is going on and it is from about this point where everything becomes clear. And another couple of bodies show up. However, up to this point, I found it confusing. It's badly cast and badly written although still interesting to watch.

Who cast Audrey Totter alongside Constance Bennett and dressed them in a similar fashion? They look the fricking same, you ass-holes! Result – audience confusion from the beginning. Also, it is not until about one hour when we discover what the relationships are between Caulfield, Totter and Rains. I'm still not sure I understand it. Are Totter and Caulfield sisters? Very sloppy story-telling. Again, result – audience confusion from the beginning.

There's nothing too original about the story and Thunderbirds puppet man is pretty creepy to look at. Rains is good as always. His short stature seems to be highlighted – again poor casting - and it's also pretty obvious who the baddie is given the atmospheric clues, use of dark and shade, timely appearances, etc. You watch it and that's it, really. It's OK.
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Crime, Drama & Stunning Cinematography
seymourblack-119 June 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Some forms of beauty are best seen from a distance and maybe that's one reason why the stunning cinematography featured in "The Unsuspected" is better appreciated by many people now than it was at the time of the movie's initial release. This dark thriller about murder, greed, blackmail, deception and guilt boasts a group of characters whose complications are only surpassed by those of the twisting plot. The film is well acted and entertaining but it's the exquisite expressionistic visual style that is its most striking attribute.

Claude Rains stars as Victor Grandison, a successful radio personality who entertains his audiences by telling them true crime stories. Victor is sophisticated and affable and lives in a mansion where a series of premature deaths occur.

Victor's secretary, Roslyn (Barbara Woodall) is found hanged in circumstances which suggest that she committed suicide and shortly after, at Victor's birthday party which had been organised by his niece Althea (Audrey Trotter), a stranger called Steven (Ted North) arrives and shocks everyone by telling them that he'd been married to Victor's ward Matilda (Joan Caulfield), who was lost in a shipwreck and was presumed to have drowned.

Steven's arrival alarms Victor who assumes that he wishes to make a claim on Matilda's substantial estate which is close to being settled in Victor's favour. Victor's concern soon proves to be unfounded however, as Steven confirms that he's actually very wealthy and has no interest in Matilda's estate.

Victor is again surprised when it emerges that Matilda has actually survived the shipwreck but when she returns to the mansion and can't remember Steven, Victor becomes increasingly suspicious of him.

Althea is later murdered seemingly by her husband Oliver (Hurd Hatfield) who himself later perishes in a car crash which is caused by brake failure and Matilda is poisoned but again survives another close brush with death. An attempt is also made on Steven's life by a killer called Press (Jack Lambert) before the identity of the serial murderer becomes generally known and a very dramatic confession duly follows.

Althea and Victor are both very calculating and strongly motivated by greed, Steven's motivation is concealed for much of the story and Matilda's gullible nature contributes to her life being put in jeopardy for a second time. Oliver had previously been a painter and Matilda's fiancé but having been seduced by Althea later became a tragic alcoholic who never got over the loss of Matilda.

Claude Rains provides a marvellously subtle portrayal of a man who is charming, conceited and very wicked and who talks on his radio show about the sense of guilt that torments the unsuspected, the person who has not yet been recognised as being culpable for their crimes and who fears that one simple error could easily lead to them having to face the full force of justice.

The opulence of the mansion in which Victor resides provides the setting for most of the action but these interiors are also inhabited by numerous lengthy shadows which frequently create ominous shapes and project a constant sense of unease and menace. This uncomfortable atmosphere is made even more disturbing by the expert use of deep focus, interesting camera angles and viewpoints which distort the audience's view of certain images.

"The Unsuspected" provides a great deal of enjoyment for crime drama fans but also, thanks to the brilliance of director Michael Curtiz and cinematographer Woody Bredell, provides an exceptional visual experience which is truly marvellous and memorable.
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"I'm not looking at you, I'm seeing you...for the first time!"
moonspinner552 October 2009
Good-looking but tired noir concoction, adapted from a book by Charlotte Armstrong, surely to be one of the most forgettable titles on the resume of director Michael Curtiz! Young woman thought to be lost at sea returns home alive, not remembering the man she supposedly married but very much aware of the tension in the manor she shares with her relatives. Meanwhile, her debonair uncle, a radio celebrity who spins murder mysteries, is getting very nervous as the police close in on the killer of his faithful secretary. Smart, bitchy society talk and lustrous black-and-white cinematography lend to the film a shiny allure, though the plot is overstuffed with familiar, unabsorbing elements. As the radio star, Claude Rains has a magnificent voice and a funny/sinister presence, but he isn't given much to do and oddly spends a great deal of time hovering around the picture's edges. *1/2 from ****
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The Unsuspected Neglected
imb-1425 July 2009
I have yet to understand the mindset of the major studios putting out clunkers on DVD, yet not paying much attention to the classic movie scene, except for the major hitters. I'm sure it takes more time since many of these need some restoration work and subtitles. However, superb classics such as The Unsuspected (directed by a MAJOR studio director no less)should have some attention paid to them. It's a shame that The Uninvited, the finest ghost story every to appear on film, has yet to be studio released either.

I just noticed that Amazon is touting DVD's that are copied from the TV and put onto DVR's for nearly $30.00! I can get them for $10.00 from Brad Lang.

All that being said, The Unsuspected is lush viewing and has a great script with a couple of sassy broads (Totter & Bennett)tossing off one-liners like hand grenades. There are a couple of glaring plot holes (hence my rating of 9 instead of 10), but I'll forgive that since the film is so wonderful in every other way.
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