Friday, July 05, 2013

Sudden Fear (2012 Cohen Film Collection restoration)

Pelko / So che mi ucciderai. US © 1952 Joseph Kaufmann Productions, Inc. D: David Miller. Dal romanzo omonimo di Edna Sherry. SC: Lenore Coffee, Robert Smith. DP: Charles B. Lang, Jr. ED: Leon Barsha. AD: Boris Leven, Edward G. Boyle. M: Elmer Bernstein. S: T.A. Carman, Howard Wilson. C: Joan Crawford (Myra Hudson), Jack Palance (Lester Blaine), Gloria Grahame (Irene Neves), Bruce Bennett (Steve Kearney), Virginia Huston (Ann Taylor), Touch Conners (Junior Kearney). P: Joseph Kaufmann per Joseph Kaufmann Productions. Premiere: 7 agosto 1952. 2K DCP. 111'. B&w. Da: Cohen Film Collection per concessione di Park Circus. Cinema Arlecchino (Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna), e-subtitles in Italian, 5 July 2013

Restored in 2012 by Cohen Film Collection at Modern Videofilm from a 35 mm fine grain and sound positive, both struck from a 35 mm negative held at the BFI National Archive.

Introduce Tim Lanza (Cohen Film Collection).

Paola Cristalli: "It was the time when Joan Crawford emerged from the tangled mess of melodrama and noir, at times defeated, at times victorious, but always alone. "Alone with her regret", as the Italian title of Harriet Craig suggests (Vincent Sherman, 1950); alone like a resourceful single mother can be, whose beloved first daughter has an affair with her mother's man, then kills him, in the masterpiece Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz, 1945); alone and lost on the roads of Los Angeles, prey to the insanity that is rooted in abandonment, in Curtis Berhardt's Possessed (1947). At time she does not emerge at all, in fact she sinks to the bottom of the ocean, like in the Wagnerian sublime finale to Humoresque. Is there a reason for any of this? Looking at twenty years of American cinema as a moral catalogue, we might think this is what happens when you have been such a dancing daughter, or a wife stealer with painted red nails, like Joan was in Cukor's The Women... However, Sudden Fear treads the same ground without upsetting the standard. Myra Hudson is, however, an interesting character, even one with an unusual premise: a playwright (and if in these years there are various women writers on the screen, very few of them write for the theatre), a woman who is rich from her inheritance but who lives off her talent, self-assured and domineering. However, she has that basic feminine weakness, which the heroines of the Forties woman's films had so bitterly dealt with, she becomes sad because she misses a man. On the long train voyage from New York to San Francisco, she gives in to the flattery of a young mediocre actor who she had previously rejected in an audition. (These are really beautiful sequences and the restoration gives justice to their nostalgic side, the lost urban landscapes and San Francisco in the sun in 1952). The rest is well-known material, he is Jack Palance and he chooses Gloria Grahame over her, he puts together a plan to kill, she discovers everything and gives a show of a self-defense that is like a mousetrap, playing with the lights and shades of the night... but she is really petrified with pain, and the film becomes a study of Joan Crawford's face, eyes open wide and every muscle in spasm, causing the not very kind Bosley Crowther to write that Mrs. Crawford's "theatrical personality has now reached the ossified stage". The director David Miller would return to work with a mature damsel in distress in the best remembered of his films, Midnight Lace, a pleasantly camp Hitchcockian variation. That however was in 1960, the shadow of noir and the guilt of woman's film are behind us, the damsel is Doris Day and she would not even think about doing it herself, nor being on her own; so she is liberated from this charming but rather old wife killer by a handsome architect who is, this time serenely, much younger than her." Paola Cristalli

It was an inspired idea of Il Cinema Ritrovato to present a San Francisco double bill of two restored thrillers, Sudden Fear and Experiment in Terror.

In his introduction to Sudden Fear, Tim Lanza told about Charles S. Cohen's commitment to restoring and remastering the treasures in the Raymond Rohauer collection which he purchased in 2011.

Sudden Fear is a strong Joan Crawford vehicle inspired by Alfred Hitchcock films such as Suspicion. A successful playwright (Joan Crawford) marries a struggling but talented actor (Jack Palance). Soon she realizes that the actor and his girlfriend (Gloria Grahame) are planning to murder her, but she launches an ingenious counter-plot of her own.

An assuredly melodramatic performance by Joan Crawford, seen in the beginning as a woman in full command of her life, then being blinded by love, and finally regaining control. I like her ironic approach in the final third of the movie: "I was just wondering what I've done to deserve you". "It's sweet of you to be disappointed".

Sudden Fear is a story of disillusion. Crawford realizes that Palance's love affair with her has been a great performance of a professional actor. Crawford's life-long ambition is to donate everything she has inherited and live on her royalties as a playwright only. Palance is interested in her money only.

Original features include - The theatre background: Crawford and Palance keep quoting Shakespeare, and Palance impresses Crawford by quoting her own dialogue - Crawford's study with five microphones automatically recording all dialogue - Crawford's precise scenario and schedule in doing away with Palance and Grahame - Yet nothing goes according to plan - The final misconception by Palance based on the the similar mink coats of the ladies who are also here "sisters under the mink" - Sound is exceptionally important in this movie.

Influenced by Hitchcock, Sudden Fear may have inspired him in turn in the use of San Francisco / Bay Area locations such as the sequoia forest and Coit Tower seen here in the romance sequence with memorable extreme close-ups of kissing. We also visit the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, where the portrait of Carlotta Valdez was on display in Vertigo; this time they are playing there "Jesus bleibet meine Freude" by J.S. Bach.

A fine job of restoration, and this was an impressive occasion to compare a DCP based on 4K restoration (Experiment in Terror) and a DCP based on 2K restoration (Sudden Fear). Occasionally there was in Sudden Fear an obvious digital look and even a video look.

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