Some weeks back, I was reading AJ Finn’s psychological thriller The Woman in the Window, in which the protagonist is addicted to old cinema—especially noir and suspense films. I ended up not liking the book much, but at least I got one good thing out of my reading of it: some recommendations. Including recommendations for films that seem as if they were made by Alfred Hitchcock (who, I should explain, is one of my favourite directors), but weren’t.
Of those, one that immediately caught my attention was Niagara, directed by Henry Hathaway. I had heard of this film before—most memorably on IMDB, where I’d seen its poster and read a brief synopsis about a honeymoon couple running into another couple with marital problems. The poster, with a sultry Marilyn Monroe in a hot pink dress, coupled with that description of the film, didn’t conjure up an image of a Hitchcockian film.
… and, what better way to start off the year than with a celebration of a life? A life that was marked both by success and by failure; by happiness and—sadly—by despair so extreme that it drove the person to suicide. Carole Landis (1919-1948), popularly dubbed ‘The Ping Girl’ and ‘The Chest’, who made her breakthrough in One Million BC (1940), though she had debuted in the very popular A Star is Born (1937).
The other day, someone commented on my long-ago list of ten favourite Robert Mitchum roles. It reminded me that I hadn’t watched a Mitchum film in a long, long time (unpardonable, considering he’s one of my favourite actors). And, since Mitchum’s role as the chilling Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter is one of the landmark roles of his career—well, it did seem appropriate to review the film.
This was not the film I’d intended to review this week. I’d something very different lined up. But you know what they say about serendipity? That it can suddenly come out of nowhere, and bowl you completely over. I won’t say The Midnight Story totally mesmerised me, but it made me change my mind about what my post was going to be about.
I am a devoted fan of Robert Mitchum, droopy eyes, awesome walk and all. I am also very enthusiastic about film noir (not surprising, since a large portion of Mitchum’s work was noir). Crossfire, made just two years after the end of World War II, focusses on a largely ignored consequence of the war: the sudden demobilisation of soldiers—men who, after years of knowing exactly whom they were supposed to hate, suddenly found themselves with no target for all that festering anger and hatred.
This is a taut, suspenseful film, but also a thought-provoking one, and perhaps a little ahead of its time.
It’s a coincidence that memsaab reviewed Woh Kaun Thi? just after I’d seen Gaslight and decided to review it. The films are worlds apart (and yes, Raj Khosla fan though I am, I must acknowledge that George Cukor is better at this!) There is, however, an interesting similarity: a central character who seems to be steadily going insane.
That said, this is a great film, very watchable and with the beautiful Ingrid Bergman in a superb, Oscar-winning performance.