Review: Tension

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Tension is a classic film noir from 1949, directed by John Berry based on a story by John D. Klorer. Both had great movie careers, but neither did much in the noir genre outside this film.

The film starts with a great monologue by Barry Sullivan as a homicide detective explaining Tension. This starts the movie out with a bang and sets the tone for the film.

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The plot is about married couple Warren and Claire Quimby, played by Richard Basehart and Audrey Totter. Claire treats Warren horribly and everybody around him sees it. She is cheating on him to boot and this is the last straw for Warren. Warren gets the idea of changing his look and starts a new life as a traveling salesperson. Complete with a new apartment in a different part of town. His plan is to kill Claire’s new lover as his new identity and disappear, going back to his real life with his wife.

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The problem with this plan is Warren falls in love with his new neighbor, Mary, played by Cyd Charisse. Will he just continue happily ever after with his new girlfriend? Will he go through with the murder? Will he be able to leave his wife?

Audrey Totter plays a great femme fatale in this picture. She is evil to the core and will do anything she thinks will make her life better or happier. I don’t think she could ever find happiness no matter what happens. Cyd Charisse plays the exact opposite to Totter. Charisse will do anything in her power to protect Warren, even though she doesn’t understand what is going on and what Warren has gotten himself into. Even their hair sets them apart as total opposites.

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Richard Basehart’s Warren is the bumbling weakling as the real struggle comes down to two strong women, and these two steal the show here. Barry Sullivan is also very good as the detective that maybe smarter then he appears.

Tension is a bit of a hidden classic film noir gem. It is a good film worth your time, even if the plot sometimes doesn’t seem to be very logical. Totter is a great example of a femme fatale from this time period and is worth watching the film for her performance along.

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Re-watching the Classics: The Set-Up

Here is a short film noir of only 73 minutes long, which takes place over those same 73 minutes.  This is Directed by Robert Wise and stars Robert Ryan as our main character.  Ryan plays Stoker, an over the hill boxer hoping to make one last run as a fighter.  Audrey Totter plays Stoker’s wife who wants him to stop fighting before he is hurt to bad. We start out with our couple in their apartment as Stoker gets ready to head to the arena.  He gives his wife a ticket to watch the fight, she makes one last effort to stop him from fighting to no avail.  Stoker gets into the locker room to start getting ready for his main event fight.  We meet a varied crew of fighters in different stages of their career.  It is almost like Stoker is reliving his past and looking into his near future as the fighter come and go, before and after their bouts.  We get to see so many great character actors of the classic noir era in this locker room.  Names such as George Tobias, Wallace Ford, Percy Helton, James Edwards and David Clarke.  We have a hodge-podge of fighters, trainers, promoters and gangsters coming and going through out the night. Stoker’s team and his opponents team have agreed that Stoker will throw the fight for the gangster named Little Boy played by Alan Baxter.  The problem is, nobody told Stoker!  Will he learn before it is too late to throw the fight?  If he does learn about the set-up will he agree to do it?  Will Stoker’s wife show up to watch the bout? As I have stated before, the more I watch Robert Ryan’s films the more I like him.  He did such a wide range of characters, it is hard to believe he could be so versatile.  The only common thread when Ryan is in a film, he will always be tough as nails.  This film is so unique and so great, I think everybody should see this at least once if you are a film lover at all.  If you are a noir fan it is a must see and if you like Ryan you probably already seen this, if not drop everything and do it now! Do you think this was a big influence on Quentin Tarantino’s story line in Pulp Fiction revolving around Bruce Willis’ character?  I can’t help but see many similarities between Willis and Ryan’s characters.  What do you think?