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cigar joe
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« on: April 08, 2012, 06:38:42 PM »

Director: Michael Curtiz, stars: Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Constance Bennett, Hurd Hatfield, Ted North, Jack Lambert, and Audrey Totter. WOW, this turns out to be a very entertaining, who-dun-it, where you kinda know/guess who-dun-it but don't really care because its a great ride with very witty dialog getting to the end with quite a number of unexpected twists along the way. Another plus for me is its New York references and location shots, Grand Central Station, the 3rd Avenue el, a three tailed PAA Lockheed "Connie" Constellation, Peekskill, Croton, the Queensboro Bridge, The Hell Gate Bridge, Wards Island, The Sawmill River Parkway, and the old main terminal at Laguardia Airport to name a few.



The story starts out with a murder in a Croton Mansion belonging to millionairess Matilda Frazier (Caufield) who at the onset we learn has been lost with all hands  in a fire at sea. Living at the mansion is Matilda's uncle and ward to her estate, popular writer, and radio mystery/true crime show host Victor Grandison (Rains), along with his other niece Althea Kean (Totter) and her drunkard husband Oliver (Hatfield) who don't have a penny between them.



Victor Grandison (Rains) below and Althea Kean (Totter) center, Oliver Kean (Hatfield) right.


The murder victim is Victor's secretary who is strangled while she is on the phone to Althea, the murderer arranges the study to make it appear that the secretary has committed suicide by hanging herself. Various clues and facts are quickly displayed and piled up at the front end of this that you are so flooded with information that it is chore of a mystery just trying to figure out what is relevant and what is not.

Jane Moynihan (Bennett)


We cut to Manhattan and Victor's radio program where we meet producer Jane Moynihan (Bennett), and as Victor is doing his spiel on the murder that was faked as a suicide in his mansion, we zoom in on a speaker and in turn cross-fade to a steam locomotive emerging from a tunnel then to a portable radio in a New York Central passenger car heading north where Oliver is listening apprehensively to the details of the case and then we rotate out the window and see Oliver superimposed by reflection on the town of Peekskill rolling by. Next we leave the train and zoom up Peekskill's main drag to the exterior of Hotel Peekskill and in turn find ourselves inside a darkened hotel room that has a shrouded figure (Lambert) on a bed listening to a radio also with Victor's program. The room is lit only by the flashing light of the hotel sign and the letters viewed from the window spell "KILL", "KILL", "KILL" and iconic Noir sequence if there ever was one.

The Hotel Peekskill sequence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3mRpYbgAtPQ

Lambert & KILL sign


At a surprise birthday party for Victor a stranger Steven Francis Howard (North) arrives claiming to be Matilda's husband. He claims that right after Oliver jilted Matilda three days before their wedding marrying Althea, Matilda married him on the rebound. He has a marriage certificate to prove it and he is also heir to an oil fortune, so that eliminates a shady motive for the claim.

Althea (Totter) & Howard (North)


Howard and his millions are more attractive to Althea than her alcoholic hubby and she "vibrates" towards Howard causing Oliver to imbibe even more. Now on top of all this we discover by telegram that Matilda was rescued by a radio-less fishing boat that finally made port in Brazil and she is winging it home to Laguardia Airport. This one is a must see for how well everything meshes.

Matilda (Caulfield) and Victor (Rains)


Oliver (Hatfield)


Wards Island NY location with Hell Gate & Triboro Bridges:


The film also has a pretty good chase sequence at the end but of course its movie geography that anybody familiar with NYC and environs will get a laugh out of. 10/10

« Last Edit: April 09, 2012, 04:23:11 AM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: April 09, 2012, 06:16:36 AM »

Here's my take from 2009:
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The Unsuspected (1947) - 3/10. This film has a lot going for it: Noir lighting, Michael Curtiz directing, Franz Waxman scoring, Claude Rains doing his patented Cat-who-ate-the-canary routine. But this flick really blows, man. It's got one of the dumbest stories ever written, and it just goes on and on and on. I think it's only supposed to be 103 minutes, but it seemed to go well over 2 hours. Who edited this mess?

The biggest problem is the plot, a whodunnit with the who obvious from the get-go. The basic idea was re-used on television (I remember one Perry Mason episode, for example, with Dick Clark as a homicidal DJ. A variation on it was used on Columbo also).

« Last Edit: April 09, 2012, 09:12:41 AM by dave jenkins » Logged


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« Reply #2 on: April 09, 2012, 06:52:42 PM »

Here's my take from 2009:
The biggest problem is the plot, a whodunnit with the who obvious from the get-go. The basic idea was re-used on television (I remember one Perry Mason episode, for example, with Dick Clark as a homicidal DJ. A variation on it was used on Columbo also).

We know its obvious, you can see Rains in the reflection on the desktop when he fakes the hanging, its not so much whodunnit but the why did hedunnit and where he's going to slip up, also My wife loved the dialog in this.  Wink

« Last Edit: August 07, 2012, 08:54:47 PM by cigar joe » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2012, 12:12:40 PM »

Just saw the movie; it was Claude Rains day on TCM's Summer Under the Stars. Rains could definitely carry a movie as a lead, it's a shame that most of his career was supporting roles. (Joan Caulfield was first-billed, but this is definitely Rains's movie).

I rate this movie an 8/10

SPOILER ALERT (for anyone reading this thread and doesn't already have the movie spoiled).

There's no doubt, we know all along that Rains is the killer, so it's not much of a whodunit. In fact, it was so easy, I was waiting and waiting for some plot twist to tell us that we were wrong; when the moment actually comes in middle of the movie that we learn that Rains actually committed the murders, I was like, really, it was that easy?

Also, there are a lot of characters and relationships to keep track of. I suppose it was all answered in the movie somewhere, but I am still not certain as to why certain things happened, starting with why did Rains want to kill Roslyn?... And I didn't like Michael North, the actor who played Steve.

But the movie was made well. Though I was definitely confused at times as to all the relationships, there wasn't a moment when I was bored. Rains is terrific, as is a very beautiful Caulfield.

Of course, the ending would have been better if it had closed on the shot of Rains's face in the radio station, rather than having that useless shot of him walking into prison, but I'd bet that was done to please the fucking censors; as if having the cops waiting for Rains outside the studio, as Rains is telling everyone that he's finished, wouldn't have made it clear enough that he is not getting away with his crimes.

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