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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Review: Cause for Alarm!

Cause for Alarm! is a classic film noir from 1951. This film is directed by Tay Garnett, who returned to his noir roots 5 years after The Postman Always Rings Twice. Though these are two very different films and Postman always gets the attention from noir fans, this film holds up on its own.

This film revolves around Loretta Young’s Character, Ellen. Ellen’s husband, George, played by Barry Sullivan is very ill and is bed ridden. This film starts out with Ellen doing housework and with a classic noir voice over, Ellen starts to tell the story of the worst day of her life. The film flashes back to when Ellen worked for Dr. Ranney Grahame, played by Bruce Cowling and meets the Doctors good friend George. This flashback has a bit of romantic comedy feel to it, but as we return to the main story, things start to get very dark. We find George is having some strange thoughts about his old friend, Dr. Grahame and his wife. Is George right or is he imagining things in his sickened state? Is his Wife and Doctor trying to kill him?

I really enjoyed this film, but feel most non-film noir fans will not. Though this has some comedy elements in it, especially the flashback scenes, it is a very claustrophobic film with pending disaster at every corner. That being said it definitely has a feel of a modern situation comedy. In fact this film was cribbed from for an episode of Three’s Company. I feel a remake of this film would be very difficult to do in today’s cinema with the same sense of frustration and pending doom. This film is also unique in taking the traditional noir back streets of the big city out of the story and slapping it into suburban America.

Favorite Tidbit: Loretta Young has a great performance in this film, and she worked really hard to earn the role. Her husband, Tom Lewis, was the producer of this film and wanted Judy Garland for the role. Young wanted the role so bad, that she got a lawyer who told Lewis, he was discriminated against Young because she was his wife. He folded and finally hired his wife for the role.

Review: No Questions Asked

No Questions Asked is a classic film noir from 1951 directed by Harold F. Kress. Kress never really made it as a director, but went on to edit some classic Hollywood films. This has a story from Berne Giler and a screenplay from Sidney Sheldon, both had long careers as writers in Hollywood.

Our story starts out with Barry Sullivan playing Steve Keiver, an insurance investigator. He is in love with Ellen, played by Arlene Dahl. Ellen is a bit of a gold digger and wants to marry somebody with money. She soon disappears to go marry a rich man with no warning to our hero. Keiver buries himself in his work and becomes very successful. He works connections in the underworld to recover stolen property for his company. He soon finds the eye of Joan, played by Jean Hagen. She is madly in love with Keiver, but Keiver still has feelings for his old flame Ellen. When Keiver and Joan are at a fancy party it is robbed. This part is pretty interesting as the theft was performed by men in drag. They fool all of those they rob by gun point, and puts the police on the trail of “two attractive females,” instead of two males. This brings in Police Inspector Matt Duggan, played by George Murphy and Detective Walter O’Bannion played by Richard Anderson into the investigation. Our hero works both sides of the law to recover the million dollars worth of jewelry stolen at the party. Will he be able to work his usual magic to get the job done? Will he be double crossed or even framed? What girl will eventually win his heart? Who can he trust?

This film noir is a bit of a hidden gem! It has a great plot with some good acting. I thought this was a sold film worth your time. The gangsters are unique and the heist men who are cross dressers had to be a bit risqué for 1951. Especially since these cross dressers are not comic relief, but actually fool the characters in the film and I think they would have fooled most of the movie going public.