Three movies? Two with Dana Andrews, two with Gene Tierney and two with Charles Bickford? Although, confusingly, never the same two. It must the BFI’s Blu-ray Otto Preminger Film Noir Collection. Nothing looks quite as stunning as a bit of noir in HD so expectation is high.
Fallen Angel (1945): Eric Stanton (Dana Andrews) is a down-on-his-luck drifter (and, sadly, not the risqué comic artist of the same name who shared a studio with Steve Ditko) who winds up in the smallest of small town America only to fall for Stella (Linda Darnell), the town’s tough-but-alluring waitress. By law, every American town was required to have a tough-but-alluring waitress until 1961 and, prone to mixing with the wrong sorts, they nearly always met a sticky end. Stella is no exception and Eric becomes suspect number one. Will he solve the case? Well he’s rather busy chasing after the local rich girl too but you never know.
Fallen Angel is actually a splendid piece of noir and the hopelessness of the location really adds to the dourness of it all. Bonus for the sci-fi/horror fan: there’s a dodgy séance act in town played by Olin Howland (the old guy in Them! and The Blob no less) and John Carradine (far better cast here than he ever was as Bela Lugosi’s eventual replacement in Universal’s later Dracula-outings).
Whirlpool (1949): Ann Sutton (Gene Tierney) is the posh wife of a psychoanalyst (Richard Conte) who, having too much time on her hands, also nicks stuff from department stores. In the intriguing opening she’s arrested for shoplifting but the apparently heroic David Korvo (Jose Ferrer) steps in to save the day. As it happens, he’s also a hypnotist (of course he is) so he offers to cure Ann of her kleptomania. But why are other socialites who’ve crossed his path so keen to warn Ann off him? Then one winds up strangled with Ann’s scarf. Oh dear.
Arguably Whirlpool isn’t really noir at all, just a thriller with a mental illness/hypnotism twist which at least makes fairly interesting for the time. While it’s the weakest here, it’s still pretty solid and Ferrer does an excellent job of stealing the show.
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950): We’re back on firmer noir ground here with a probably-tougher-than-he-should-be detective (Dana Andrews) accidentally killing a not-actually-guilty suspect (Craig Stevens) in a murder case. Turns out the suspect had a silver plate in his head from an old war wound and was a decorated hero. Has anyone said “oh dear” yet? As this is film noir, he does the entirely stupid and dumps the body in the river while trying to blame it on another (probably guilty) suspect in the case he was investigating. Then he tops it all by falling in love with the war veteran’s estranged wife (Gene Tierney). Oh for heaven’s sake. All film noir tropes present and correct then.
Actually, this one’s a gem. Dark stuff with its glimpses of the New York underworld and its contagious violence that even drives our hero who is, like all good noir heroes, doomed from the outset.
One minor moan: these films were all in a previous BFI DVD boxset that also contained (the non-Preminger) Night and the City (1950). Pity we couldn’t get the same deal on these fantastic looking Blu-rays .
Special Features: Commentaries / Interview with Otto Preminger / Trailers / Booklet
THE OTTO PREMINGER FILM NOIR COLLECTION / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: OTTO PREMINGER / SCREENPLAY: VARIOUS / STARRING: DANA ANDREWS, GENE TIERNEY, CHARLES BICKFORD, ALICE FAYE, LINDA DARNELL, RICHARD CONTE, JOSÉ FERRER, BARBARA O’NEIL, KARL MARDEN, CRAIG STEVENS, TOM TULLY, GARY MERRILL, OLIN HOWLAND, JOHN CARRADINE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW