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The Films of Otto Preminger

The Great Love

Under Your Spell

Danger-Love at Work

Margin for Error

In the Meantime, Darling

Laura (March 30/05)

Though it's often hailed as an ideal example of the film noir aesthetic, Laura is nevertheless a slightly overrated drama that's generally undone by a pronounced feeling of staginess. The story revolves around Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews), a hard-nosed detective who is assigned to the murder of a beautiful woman named Laura (Gene Tierney), and must wade through a long list of potential suspects. Director Otto Preminger does a nice job of imbuing the film with a variety of intriguing stylistic choices, yet the filmmaker is unable to inject life into some of the talkier sequences (of which there are many). Andrews is very good as the hard-as-nails detective, while Vincent Price effectively oozes sleaze as one of the possible murderers. The majority of the film plays out like a '40s version of Law and Order, with McPherson interrogating suspects and chasing down leads. While Laura certainly isn't a bad film, it's hard not to feel some disappointment given the heaps of praise it's received over the years.

out of

A Royal Scandal

Fallen Angel

Centennial Summer

Forever Amber

Daisy Kenyon

The Fan

Whirlpool (October 10/05)

Despite the involvement of director Otto Preminger and co-writer Ben Hecht, Whirlpool can't help but come off as a sporadically trashy, thoroughly absurd murder mystery. Gene Tierney stars as Ann Sutton, a wealthy socialite who - in the film's opening moments - is caught stealing a pendant she could easily afford. Thanks to the efforts of a charming doctor named David Korvo (Jose Ferrer), the store's owner is convinced not to press charges. As it turns out, Korvo's got his own reasons for wanting Ann to go free and essentially blackmails the woman into accepting an aggressive round of hypnotherapy. Tierney and Ferrer are exceedingly convincing in their respective roles (particularly Ferrer, who steps into the shoes of this sinister hypnotist with apparent ease), while Preminger effectively infuses the film with random bursts of style. And though the movie becomes incredibly ridiculous as it progresses (there's a twist towards the end that's just about laughable), Hecht - along with Andrew Solt - does a nice job of imbuing Whirlpool with snappy dialogue and a relatively quick pace. But the whole thing is far too silly to ever be taken seriously, though it does seem as though that might've been the point.

out of


Where the Sidewalk Ends (January 16/07)

Where the Sidewalk Ends casts Dana Andrews as Mark Dixon, a grizzled cop who accidentally kills a suspect during a routine interrogation and is subsequently forced to cover his tracks by inadvertently pinning the murder on someone else. That Mark finds himself falling for the dead man's estranged wife (Gene Tierney's Morgan Taylor) doesn't help matters, nor does the fact that his new Captain (Karl Malden) is convinced that Morgan's father is the killer. It's the sort of premise that's virtually impossible to foul up, and although the film does slow down as it progresses, Where the Sidewalk Ends generally moves at a fairly brisk pace and features several effective (and unexpected) plot twists. The melancholy tone that's been hard-wired into the latter half of the proceedings by screenwriter Ben Hecht is reflected in Andrews' superb performance, while director Otto Preminger does a nice job of infusing the film with an appropriately matter-of-fact sense of style. The only real misstep comes with the distractingly upbeat conclusion, although that's a relatively minor complaint for what is otherwise a solid little entry within the film noir canon.

out of

The 13th Letter

Angel Face (January 25/07)

Despite the inclusion of a few intriguing twists (and a pair of genuinely shocking death scenes), Angel Face never quite achieves lift-off - a vibe that's primarily due to the familiarity of the story and a distinct feeling of overlength. Robert Mitchum stars as Frank Jessup, a paramedic who answers a call at the Tremayne estate one night and soon finds himself embroiled in a love-hate relationship with 19-year-old Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons). It's clear almost immediately that Diane is manipulating Frank for less-than-savory reasons, and there are consequently few surprises to be had throughout Angel Face's 91-minute running time (that the third-act consists almost entirely of needless padding doesn't help matters). With movies such as Laura and Where the Sidewalk Ends under his belt, filmmaker Otto Preminger is certainly no stranger to the world of film noir - yet the director has curiously infused Angel Face with a plodding structure and flat visuals, leaving Mitchum's expectedly compelling performance as one of the film's few positive attributes.

out of

The Moon is Blue

River of No Return

Carmen Jones

The Man With the Golden Arm

The Court-Martial of Billy Mitchell

Saint Joan

Bonjour Tristesse (November 11/12)

Based on a novel by Françoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse details the close relationship between a lecherous father (David Niven's Raymond) and his freespirited teen daughter (Jean Seberg's Cecile) - with problems ensuing as Raymond's attention is diverted from Cecile to an old flame named Anne (Deborah Kerr). Director Otto Preminger has infused the early part of Bonjour Tristesse with a decidedly breezy feel that is, for the most part, impossible to resist, with the movie's affable atmosphere, coupled with Niven and Seberg's charming work, ensuring that the lack of both plot and substance is initially not as troublesome as one might've feared. There inevitably reaches a point, however, at which the pervasively lighthearted vibe becomes somewhat oppressive, as Preminger, working from Arthur Laurents' thin screenplay, offers up a meandering midsection that seems to revolve entirely around the characters' fun-loving exploits (eg they go swimming, they socialize in a casino, they attend a cocktail party, etc, etc). The movie does improve slightly with the commencement of Cecile and Anne's battle of wills, with the appreciatively melodramatic nature of such moments standing in sharp contrast to the otherwise static and uneventful proceedings. But the palpably overlong running time ensures that even this aspect of the narrative eventually wears out its welcome, and it ultimately goes without saying that the tragic conclusion, predictable as it may be, is simply unable to pack the punch that Preminger has clearly intended.

out of

Porgy and Bess

Anatomy of a Murder

Exodus

Advise & Consent

The Cardinal

In Harm's Way

Bunny Lake is Missing (March 20/14)

Bunny Lake is Missing details the chaos that ensues after a young woman's (Carol Lynley's Ann Lake) four-year-old daughter disappears from school, with the movie detailing the subsequent search for the child and the lead detective's (Laurence Olivier's Newhouse) growing suspicion that the girl is merely a figment of Ann's imagination. Filmmaker Otto Preminger has infused Bunny Lake is Missing with a palpably deliberate pace that isn't, at the outset, too problematic, with the inherently compelling nature of the movie's setup heightened by Preminger's stylish visuals and an assortment of strong supporting characters. (In terms of the latter, Olivier's consistently engrossing turn as the sardonic Newhouse remains a highlight from start to finish - as the actor, for the most part, outshines his various costars with seemingly little effort.) It's only as the movie progresses into its uninvolving, repetitive midsection that one's patience begins to grow thin, as Preminger, working from John and Penelope Mortimer's script, suffuses the thin narrative with a host of needless elements designed to pad out the running time. (What's the deal with, for example, the continuing emphasis on Ann's encounters with her alcoholic neighbor?) There's ultimately just not enough story here to keep things interesting for the entirety of the proceedings, and it's clear that the movie, though it boasts an admittedly unexpected twist in its final stretch, peters out significantly once it passes a certain point - which does, in the end, cement Bunny Lake is Missing's place as a promising thriller that slowly-but-surely wears out its welcome.

out of

Hurry Sundown

Skidoo

Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon

Such Good Friends

Rosebud

The Human Factor

© David Nusair