Saturday, March 07, 2015

Tonight's Movie: The Guilty (1947) at the UCLA Festival of Preservation

I had a wonderful time on my first evening at the 2015 UCLA Festival of Preservation! There was a packed house on hand to enjoy a 35mm film noir double bill hosted by Alan K. Rode of the Film Noir Foundation.

It was great to visit with friends and see a pair of entertaining films. I had seen the first film on the double bill, TOO LATE FOR TEARS (1949), almost exactly one year ago, at the Noir City Film Festival. I was very glad to enjoy it once more with an appreciative audience. Lizabeth Scott's machinations and Dan Duryea's sarcastic lines were just as much fun the second time around, and I also really like the film's "good guys," Don DeFore and Kristine Miller. TOO LATE FOR TEARS was my favorite of the evening's films.

THE GUILTY (1947) was a new film for me. It was a low, low budget Monogram film based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, whose writing inspired so many other titles in the genre. The screenplay of this 71-minute film was by Robert Presnell Sr., with John Reinhardt directing and photography by Henry Sharp. The movie was produced by Jack Wrather, who married star Bonita Granville the year this film was released.

Granville plays a dual role, starring as good twin Linda and bad twin Estelle. As Mike Carr (Don Castle) prepares to meet Estelle in a bar for the first time in several months, he tells the story of her sister Linda's shocking murder, which is investigated by Detective Heller (Regis Toomey).

I'll leave the synopsis at that, as the story has a number of turns, including unexpected suspects who won't be named here. The somber storyline and twisting plot worked against the film to some extent; it was absorbing, yet I wouldn't class it as a favorite noir. That said, I'm hoping to see it again at the Noir City Film Festival next month, as I would like to watch it again knowing the ending; I want to see if I can follow along and it all makes better sense the second time!

The movie's strongest point is its outstanding noir look; it might have been made on a shoestring, with a limited number of sets, but it has terrific visuals, with lots of shadows and rainy streets.

The film became creepier as it went along, between the grisly description of the murder and an attempted suicide; the final sequence before the murderer was revealed was genuinely spooky. You have to admire what the filmmakers pulled off stylistically.

I thought Granville was quite effective depicting two very different women; you could almost tell just from her expressions which sister was which, beatific Linda or snarly, snarky Estelle.

As was the case with his starring role in HIGH TIDE (1947), seen at the 2013 festival, longtime Wrather associate Don Castle is perfectly fine, if not especially memorable. Castle just missed out on that indefinable extra dose of charisma which makes someone a bigger star. As I described in my post on HIGH TIDE, Castle later transitioned to working behind the scenes, including serving as an associate producer on Wrather's LASSIE TV series.

Toomey, on the other hand, is always terrific, and he's simply wonderful as the detective; he didn't have that many scenes but he made the most of them. I'm always glad to see him on screen, and this film was no exception. This would make a great Toomey double bill paired with another film in which he played a cop, CRY DANGER (1951).

John Litel, who played Granville's father in the NANCY DREW movie series, plays a man who rents a room from the twins' mother (Netta Packer). Wally Cassell plays a friend of Mike's who suffers from PTSD. Alan Rode shared the news that Cassell had just turned 100 years old a few days ago!

Again this year there was a beautiful glossy program created for the festival, seen here.

The Festival of Preservation is off to a great start this weekend! I'll have more coverage very soon.


Blogger Blake Lucas said...

I enjoyed getting together and seeing this with you, Laura.

I feel as those I liked it somewhat better than you. It was an interesting film to me, with that intense tangle of relationships, and wonderful atmosphere that you rightly do give it points for. I find with Cornell Woolrich that improbabilities in the stories go with the territory, but because the stories are absorbing, I'm willing to suspend disbelief if it's well-done as I believe this was.

For me, the artfulness of the movie was not in the least constrained by that low budget. I didn't think you cold have done much more with it stylistically even with a much bigger budget.

So I would say John Reinhardt is a name to be reckoned with. I only knew CHICAGO CALLING which I made a point to catch up with after reading about it here and in a few other places--an unusual film, again visually impressive and with that great performance by Dan Duryea in a highly sympathetic role.

So sorry I missed HIGH TIDE now and hopefully a DVD will come along at some point.

11:24 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Blake! It was great seeing you and being able to enjoy a couple of movies with you for the first time in a while. :)

I definitely found the film interesting; I guess I just hoped I'd like it even more than I did. The story didn't work 100% for me here, though I'm otherwise willing to cut Woolrich slack for improbable stories (i.e., I love NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES). But I enjoyed it enough to want to sit through it again soon and try to piece things together (grin)!

I do think I liked Reinhardt's HIGH TIDE even better, and it also has a nice role for Toomey along with a leading role for Castle. Really hope you can see that one. Have hoped for a DVD but so far still waiting!

Best wishes,

11:34 PM  
Blogger john knight said...

I would have loved to have seen THE GUILTY on the big-screen.
To me the film is a nightmare journey into "Edward Hopper Land" and as you
say the "look" of the film is great.
I do hope that it finds it's way to DVD at some point.
As Blake says Reinhardt is a talent to be reckoned with,although his
American credits are few.
I prefer THE GUILTY to HIGH TIDE,but we all have different tastes.
Another Wrather Production that I am after is the "Wildcatter" drama
STRIKE IT RICH (1948) with Rod Cameron,Granville and Castle.
This time the director was one of my personal faves;Lesley Selander.
It's reputedly pretty good and Warner Archive say that they intend to release
it at some point,so that's good.

7:50 AM  

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