Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The original bunny boiler

By the time you swear you're his
  Shivering and sighing,

And he vows his passion is
  Infinite, undying,

Lady make a note of this—
  One of you is lying.
—Dorothy Parker

If Ms Parker had added a coda to the effect that "the other one is batshit insane", that would basically be Leave Her to Heaven in a nutshell. See the following railroad meet cute.

Cornel Wilde is basically saying what he needs to say to get layed. Gene Tierney means every syllable of purple prose that falls from her mouth. That turns out to be bad news for him.

It's an odd, grandiose, and not really successful noir/melodrama from 1945. A writer meets a mysterious woman, falls in love with her, and marries her. Then she makes his life hell. She kills his annoyingly cute invalid brother, gives herself a miscarriage, and accuses him of being in love with her stepsister just because he is.

A lot of nice elements are here. The technicolor photography is beautiful, especially in the first third set in Taos, New Mexico. There's a fine supporting cast, including Chill Wills and Vincent Price. Price had been one of Tierney's hulking boytoys in Laura, and he's better cast here as her vindictive prosecutor ex.

The unfortunate thing, though, is that the film's formula is familiar by now from a thousand Lifetime movies of the week. These are the potboilers where a woman meets a charming man, albeit one whose just a little too intense. As soon as she is legally and/or conventionally stuck with him, he turns into a controlling and abusive monster. LHTH is of an older vintage, and the genders are reversed, but it's just as pre-programmed in the end.

Still, if it catches your eye on TCM or someplace, you may as well stick with it. The effort does pay off in certain scenes. While I couldn't say the movie was entirely my cup of tea, I respect its craft.


susan said...

If I ever saw this one it's a very long time since. The clip you provided as well as your cool review mean it may just have to go on the list of noir films to be watched sooner rather than later.

Ben said...

Interesting response, in that I didn't exactly rave about it. But often I find that a vivid bad review will have me more interested in something than a sedate good review. Now I know where I got it.