Who killed Vicky Lynn? Beautiful, brittle Vicky (Carole Landis), an aspiring actress and singer, might have been bumped off by her exasperated sister (Betty Grable), or perhaps by the man who had first promoted her budding acting career (Victor Mature)...or one of several other people. Self-absorbed Vicky had a way of disappointing those who cared about her.
The answer to the "whodunit" question turns out to have been fairly obvious, but it's a lot of noirish fun arriving at the solution...I WAKE UP SCREAMING is, in fact, considered one of the earliest examples of the film noir genre.
The film is also notable as its stars, particularly Grable, were often seen in lighter fare. The same year I WAKE UP SCREAMING was released, Grable and Landis played sisters in the sprightly musical MOON OVER MIAMI, reviewed here last summer. Grable and Mature appeared together in SONG OF THE ISLANDS and FOOTLIGHT SERENADE in 1942. All three actors are very effective in their roles.
The excellent supporting cast includes one of my favorite character actors, Allyn Joslyn. (My reviews of other movies featuring Joslyn can be found here, here, here, and here.) The cast also includes Alan Mowbray, Elisha Cook, Jr., Laird Cregar, and William Gargan.
Character actor Charles Lane, who passed away last week at 102, appears in a small role. I WAKE UP SCREAMING was one of 20 films Lane appeared in which were released in 1941.
The movie runs 82 minutes. Of particular note is the black and white cinematography by Edward Cronjager, which is full of dark shadows and interesting tilted angles. The director, H. Bruce Humberstone, is perhaps best known for directing CHARLIE CHAN movies and a variety of musicals starring Sonia Henie, Betty Grable, Alice Faye, and Danny Kaye. Volume 2 of CHARLIE CHAN movies on DVD contains an informative featurette on Humberstone.
There are two significant pieces of background music in I WAKE UP SCREAMING. One is Alfred Newman's Gershwin-esque "Street Scene" which was used in several other Fox movies. Newman himself was seen conducting "Street Scene" in the prologue for HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE.
The other interesting background theme music is the song "Over the Rainbow." It's rather unusual to hear it used in a Fox movie of this era, as THE WIZARD OF OZ was made by another studio, MGM, just two years earlier.
A dozen years after its release, I WAKE UP SCREAMING was remade as VICKI, with Jean Peters and Jeanne Crain in the Landis and Grable roles. Trivia fans may find it of interest to note that the character's name was spelled Vicky in the original version.
I WAKE UP SCREAMING is available on DVD as Fox Film Noir No. 18. (The remake, VICKI, is Fox Film Noir No. 19.) DVD extras include promotional materials and the opening title sequence using the movie's original title, HOT SPOT. Other extras include the trailer, a deleted scene, and commentary by noted film noir expert Eddie Muller.
I WAKE UP SCREAMING can also be seen on VHS or on cable on Fox Movie Channel.