Joseph H. Lewis’ Gothic noir My Name is Julia Ross is an agreeably striking example of the ‘woman in peril’ film. It’s a ruthlessly straight gaslighting plot but done with style by Lewis, well played by the main actors and made with atmosphere. In it, Julia Ross (Foch) is a young woman struggling to find a job in London who thinks she has visited every employment agency in the city, before discovering a new one that puts her onto a job that seems too good to be true. Of course, it is and her new employers, mother Mrs Hughes and her son Ralph, have their own plans for Ross. Trapped in a fortress-like house in Cornwall, Ross must keep her sanity whilst still finding a way to escape from the sinister widow and her few-sandwiches-short-of-a-picnic spawn.
As explained in the fine accompanying interview with Nora Fiore (aka the Nitrate Diva), the film came at a time when WW2 had ended and women were being directed away from the jobs and independence that had marked the wartime years and back into traditional female roles. Ross’ history is alluded to and it’s clear that she is putting her own career and needs ahead of anything like marriage and children, at least for now. And so, when her captors try and force her into a life that is literally not hers, Ross kicks back and refuses to lose her identity. It’s a satisfying feature that builds to a conclusion that isn’t unexpected but along the way is never less than entertaining. Nina Foch is a captivating and compelling lead and the tale remains potent and relevant. It’s not the most essential of film noirs but nevertheless has much to enjoy, more so as a Gothically-inclined tale of abuse and survival.
As far as picture goes, the HD presentation here is generally of a very high standard. Some inevitable softness is evident, but vitally for a black and white film, the balance between light and shade is mostly excellent. There aren’t a huge number of extras but what is available is well worth your time. First, there’s a commentary from Alan K. Rode, a scholar of film noir. The feature with Fiore is great, exploring the context the film was made in, where it fits in Lewis’ filmography and its importance to both his development and to this particular type of thriller, and is a welcome and valuable addition. The trailer is also included and first pressings come with a booklet featuring writing by critic Adrian Martin. It’s a solid release and of most interest to fans of film noir. If that’s you, this comes recommended.
MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945) / CERT: PG / DIRECTOR: JOSEPH H. LEWIS / SCREENPLAY: MURIEL ROY BOLTON / STARRING: NINA FOCH, MAY WHITTY, GEORGE MACREADY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW