Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Tonight's Movie: Suspicion (1941) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

Alfred Hitchcock's SUSPICION (1941) is now available on Blu-ray from the Warner Archive.

SUSPICION is the story of ne'er-do-well wastrel Johnnie (Cary Grant), who marries the mousy Lina (Joan Fontaine). Shy Lina grabs her chance at love -- not hard to understand when the man in question looks like Cary Grant! -- but does he love her or her money?

And what about the suspicious death of Johnnie's friend Beaky (Nigel Bruce)? Could Lina's life be in danger?

As I wrote at some length back in 2012, SUSPICION is a film I've struggled with over the years. I've gradually come to like it more than I once did, thanks in large part to Fontaine's splendid performance, but while I enjoyed revisiting it once more, the story itself remains a challenge.

Once upon a time I found Fontaine's Oscar-winning performance in this overrated, but now I appreciate her subtle playing greatly, especially when contrasted with the varied other roles she played in the early '40s. Fontaine fully inhabits Lina, a woman who ignores all the warning signs and stays with her husband despite learning that he's, well, a really bad person.

Even setting aside the infamously problematic "Is he or isn't he a killer?" ending, the movie is really a tragedy. Johnnie may or not be a murderer, but at best Lina is committed to a lazy user and a thief. Poor girl.

It's a beautifully made movie with favorite actors, but it's difficult to watch Lina's steadfast love abused at every turn. It's almost disturbing how well Cary Grant inhabits a sleazy character, a gambler and an embezzler who enjoys taunting Lina even when he does nice things. I suppose watching an actor I like so much as an unredeemable louse is part of what makes it difficult for me! Johnnie even says towards the end that he's not likely to change, so Lina seems well and truly stuck.

The outstanding cast includes Cedric Hardwicke, Isabel Jeans, Dame May Whitty, Leo G. Carroll, Heather Angel, Lumsden Hare, and Leonard Carey.

The screenplay of this 99-minute film was by Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison, and Alma Reville (Hitchcock), based on a novel by Francis Iles (aka Anthony Berkeley).

The superb black and white cinematography is by Harry Stradling (Sr.), and his work looks terrific on this new Blu-ray. That famous glass of milk has never glowed so beautifully.

The Blu-ray includes the trailer and a featurette, "Before the Fact: Suspicious Hitchcock," which was originally included on the 2004 Warner Home Video DVD.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the WBShop.


Blogger barrylane said...

You have summed up Johnnie quite well, and In my view, Grant's performance, taking nothing away from Fontaine, is what makes the film work. this isn't just about Grant's appearance, although that is important, but the weakness, no the outright selfishness and 'unforgiveable' charm tied together by a lack of character. As a drama, without the contrived murder melodrama, it still plays. No, it plays better.

7:55 AM  
Blogger KC said...

I struggle with this film as well. The Blu-ray gave me greater appreciation for how beautifully it is filmed, and I do think Fontaine's performance is great, but I still have a hard time sitting through such a cringe-fest. Oddly enough, I enjoyed the book upon which it is based more, though Johnny is much worse, and does much, much worse in it. I guess part of it is that the novel commits to his darkness all the way to the end, instead of giving you false hope that he could improve.

9:48 PM  

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