Sunday, October 07, 2007

DVD: Tension (1949)/Where Danger Lives (1950)

Onward into Warner’s Film Noir Classic Collection Volume 4 we go. Tension is the sleeper of the set so far. Richard Basehart stars as a mild-mannered pharmacist utterly devoted to wife Audrey Totter. Trouble is, Audrey’s not devoted to him. While he’s mixing pills on the graveyard shift, she’s swanning around town with her lover. Basehart wants to off the beau, but realizes he doesn’t have it in him. However, if he creates another identity for himself ...

Tension’s structure has dated somewhat; the proceedings are introduced and narrated by Barry Sullivan as a homicide detective with the great unlikely moniker of Collier Bonnabel. But the storyline about what people are capable of when they let slip their everyday lives is as sharp as ever. The cast makes the most of it, especially the magnificent Audrey Totter. She’s always a lot of fun to watch.

Where Danger Lives is a dud, but an oddly compelling one. Doctor Robert Mitchum saves a woman’s life after a suicide attempt, then promptly falls in love with her. (Don’t they cover these situations in medical school?) There’s a murder, and the couple goes on the run – even though initially, no one is chasing them. The first half of the movie is a series of miscues and mixed signals, while the second half grows increasingly surreal as Mitchum begins feeling the effects of a concussion.

The troubled woman is played by Faith Domergue, one of Howard Hughes’s “discoveries.” Faith, alas, isn’t a very good actress. But as the extent of her character’s mental illness is revealed, the weaknesses in her performance become ... well, not strengths, exactly, but interesting shadings in a psychological portrait. Let’s leave it at that.

Movies: Enjoy The Show

Yesterday we saw Michael Clayton, the terrific directorial debut of one of my favorite screenwriters Tony Gilroy. Great to see a smart, grown-up movie in a packed house. Still, the experience prompted a few rants.

Rant #1. Every preview we saw – and there were a lot of them – was for a movie about death. Dead kids, dead spouses, dead lovers, dead friends. Two in a row was depressing. Three was kind of funny. Four had people turning around to look at the guy who couldn’t stop laughing. For the record, attending a movie that addresses adult concerns does not mean that the audience is simply marking time until the sweet embrace of the grave.

Rant #2. The people who sat on the other side of Rosemarie brought an entire picnic with them. Thermoses full of liquid, large plastic sacks of bite-sized chocolate bars to be individually unwrapped. I’ve made my peace with the fact that people are incapable of sitting still for two hours without feeding themselves, and that many of these people are cheap.

But then the guy right next to Rosemarie ate an apple.

Anyone who eats an apple in a movie theater is a jackass. Apples are the loudest of the natural snacks, and they spray juice into the dark.

And don’t bother giving me the speech about how you’re hypoglycemic. Not everyone who claims to have blood sugar woes can be so afflicted. Statistically it’s not possible. You know the last society so fixated on humors of the body? Ancient Rome. And we all know what happened there.

Lastly, if you do insist on eating an apple during a movie, at least have the decency to take the core with you when you leave.

Ah. I feel better now.