Friday, June 24, 2011
It has a cast to die for, George Sanders, Lucille Ball, Charles Coburn, Boris Karloff, Alan Mowbrey George Zucco, Cederick Hardwicke and Alan Napier (playing Detective Gordon, which is amusing in retrospect of his later Batman role). It has a first class director in Douglas Sirk and a well written script. It’s a neat little film that is a great unseen treasure.
The plot of the film has Scotland Yard chasing a serial killer who sends notes to the police announcing each murder. As more and more women disappear they enlist the aid of an American dancer (Ball), to act as bait. This puts her into contact with Sanders, a notorious playboy.
The main stars of the film are Sanders, Ball and Hardwicke, with the rest of the cast being sterling support. Watching the film recently on Turner Classic Movies I was in heaven as each new familiar face wandered on screen. Normally we’d be lucky to get one, perhaps two of these great actors, but here it is we have 8. For the most part this film works like gang busters. It’s a great cast going through it’s paces. It should be an out of the park home run, instead the film is a very respectable triple.
For me the film never quite comes together the way a classic should. All of the elements are there but something is missing. In a weird way I understand why the film was a failure upon it’s initial release. Douglas Sirk blamed it on change of title (they changed it to Personal Column), I think there is something else wrong. For me the problem is that the film has an odd tone. The film’s story has a down and gritty noir feel but it’s dressed up in fancy clothes that make the film feel more pretend then real. On a certain level many of the notes feel false.
I also think that Lucille Ball, is kind of wrong for her role, she’s a tad too brusk compared to the rest of the refined cast. It’s not fatal, but it does make this a should see instead of a must see.
And you really should see this, for Sanders if nothing else. Watch the scenes where he’s interrogated by the police and you quickly realize how good (and under utilized) an actor he was. I kept thinking, he was never allowed to cut loose like this before why?
Worth searching out. Its currently in the TCM rotation. It’s also on DVD from Kino (though the front cover has Lucille Ball and Boris Karloff on the front, which is kind of a come on since Karloff has only a very brief role.)