Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Never Fear (1950) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

NEVER FEAR (1950), the first official directing credit for Ida Lupino, was recently released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

Lupino had previously done uncredited directing work on NOT WANTED (1949), which is also now available from Kino Lorber and will be reviewed here in the near future. Like NOT WANTED and the later HARD, FAST AND BEAUTIFUL (1951), NEVER FEAR stars actress-dancer Sally Forrest.

Forrest plays Carol Williams, a young dancer who is just starting to reach professional success with her partner, Guy Richards (Keefe Brasselle). That success is echoed in Carol and Guy's personal lives, as they've just become engaged.

Carol unexpectedly collapses and is diagnosed with polio, which leaves her unable to walk. After a hospital stay she is transferred to the Kabat-Kaiser Institute in Santa Monica for a lengthy period of rehabilitation.

Despite initial progress and the encouragement of Guy, her father (Herbert Butterfield), the rehab staff, and her fellow patients, Carol grows increasingly despondent about the battle she's facing to walk again, let alone dance. She spirals into depression and breaks up with Guy despite his love and entreaties to continue with their plans to marry. It will take time, physical progress, and a gradual journey of self-discovery for Carol to accept her "new normal" and be ready to move forward with her life.

This was an engrossing film with appealing young lead players; it was a particular treat watching Forrest dance in the film's opening scenes. In addition to Forrest and Brasselle, the film also stars Hugh O'Brian in his first substantial film role. O'Brian plays a fellow patient who offers Carol support; he's quietly attracted to her but recognizes her heart is elsewhere.

As a viewer, at some point in the film's relatively short 82 minutes I reached a point of growing frustrated by Carol's self-pity and insistence on turning away from love, being ready for her to start gaining some insights into her reactions and emotions earlier in the film than it happens; that said, her story seems realistic. Someone in the grips of a huge personal trauma and life change isn't necessarily always going to be the easiest person to interact with, and everyone has their own timetable.

Despite the length of time spent on Carol's despondent emotional state, the movie is quite interesting. The film's authenticity is aided immeasurably by filming at the Kabat-Kaiser Institute, with actual patients as extras. Extensive scenes depicting physical therapy and recreation were quite interesting on multiple levels, including gaining an understanding of what treatment was available to patients at the time. And as I watched patients square dancing in wheelchairs, I mused about what a refreshingly unusual film sequence it was for its era.

The film was written by director Lupino and her then-husband Collier Young; they divorced in 1951 and Young married Joan Fontaine the following year. Rather remarkably, Lupino then directed Fontaine in THE BIGAMIST (1953), with Young having written the screenplay; that film is also just out from Kino Lorber.

The excellent black and white cinematography was by Archie Stout, with some of the rehab scenes having a stark, almost documentary-style look, in contrast to the inky blacks of the nightclub dance sequence.

The supporting cast includes Eve Miller (THE BIG TREES), Lawrence Dobkin, Stanley Waxman, and Kevin O'Morrison. Ida Lupino's sister Rita plays Josie, one of Carol's fellow patients.

NEVER FEAR is available from Kino Lorber as a single-title DVD or as part of the four-film Ida Lupino Filmmaker Collection, where it's boxed with NOT WANTED, THE BIGAMIST, and THE HITCH-HIKER (1953).

The Kino Lorber print of NEVER FEAR is excellent. It comes with a commentary track by Alexandra Heller-Nicholas and a gallery of trailers for five additional films available from Kino Lorber.

Thanks to Kino Lorber for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


Blogger Caftan Woman said...

I was very impressed with my one viewing of this movie. Glad to know of the release.

5:14 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

Like you I found it very worthwhile. Great to have Kino Lorber making such interesting films available, and I love the attention Ida Lupino's directing work is receiving!

Best wishes,

10:04 AM  
Blogger Éowyn said...

This and Not Wanted (1949) are two of my absolute faves; both of Keefe Brasselle's characters are just so gentlemanly and sweet. :)

On another note, Hugh O'Brian's character in this one never fails to break my heart!

10:51 AM  

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