Friday, March 23, 2012

The Suspect

Sinun ei pidä… / Du skall icke… [in Finland] / Misstänkt [in Sweden]. US © 1945 Universal Pictures Co., Inc. First screened: San Francisco 22.12.1944, released: 26.1.1945. [EX: Howard Benedict.] P: Islin Auster. D: Robert Siodmak. Asst. D: William Tummel. SC: Bertram Millhauser – adaptation: Arthur T. Horman – based on James Ronald's novel This Way Out (1939). DP: Paul Ivano. [2nd camera: William Dodds.] AD: James B. Goodman, Martin Obzina. Set dec: Russell A. Gausman, E. R. Robinson. Cost: Vera West. M: Frank Skinner. S: Bernard B. Brown (director of sound) – Charles Carroll (sound technical) – Ronald K. Pierce (re-recording and effects mixer) – Western Electric Recording. ED: Arthur Hilton. C: Charles Laughton (Philip Marshall), Ella Raines (Mary Gray), Dean Harens (John Marshall), Stanley C. Ridges (inspector Huxley), Henry Daniell (Gilbert Simmons), Rosalind Ivan (Cora Marshall), Molly Lamont (Edith Simmons), Raymond Severn (Merridow), Eve Amber (Sybil), Maude Eburne (Mrs. Packer), Clifford Brooke (Packer). Helsinki premiere: 29.11.1946 Bio-Bio, dist: Oy Filmiseppo – PCA 10564 – VET 26500 – K16 – 7653 ft / 85 min. A Universal Studios print viewed at Cinema Orion, Helsinki (Robert Siodmak's film noir cycle), 23 March 2012

A character-driven movie about a mild-mannered, middle-aged tobacco-shop owner named Philip Marshall (Charles Laughton) chained in a loveless marriage. His grown-up son moves away from home, and Philip starts to see the lovely young Mary (Ella Raines). Although "nothing" happens and they discontinue their friendship, Philip's wife makes devastating threats on Christmas Eve. After the murder Philip is blackmailed by his wife-beating neighbour (Henry Daniell). This subtle crime story is dominated and distinguished by a superb performance by Charles Laughton.

According to the Production Code Administration no crime could go unpunished in a movie, but the screenwriter Bertram Millhauser, the director Robert Siodmak and Charles Laughton have created an open ending satisfactory both to the demands of the PCA and the artistic integrity of the movie.

Jacques Lourcelles has written that The Suspect is a special suspense thriller because the suspense is of an essentially moral character, not so much related to the external action of the story.

Matti Salo, on the other hand, pays attention to the highlight of the story, the surprise party scene during which Philip Marshall has to play the generous host while the corpse of the blackmailer lies hidden behind the sofa. Matti Salo sees this powerful sequence as a predecessor to Hitchcock's Rope.

Ella Raines was the inspiration, the breath of fresh air, in three Robert Siodmak movies (Phantom Lady, The Suspect, The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry). She does not get very much to do in The Suspect, but her very presence is enough to convince us that Philip may want to risk everything to start a new life.

The brilliance of Paul Ivano's cinematography was evident in much of the print, but at times the definition of light seemed to be on autopilot, low contrast shots alternating with brilliant ones.

1 comment:

Anton Asikainen said...

There are two possible stories in this fine film: it's possible, however impropable, that Marshall's wife died in an accident. I like to think so, because it sheds such an intriguing light on the second, murderous death, and on the character of Mr. Marshall so brilliantly portrayed by Charles Laughton.