Sunday, June 25, 2017

Tonight's Movie: Cry Wolf (1947) - A Warner Archive DVD Review

A pair of true superstars, Errol Flynn and Barbara Stanwyck, star in the thriller CRY WOLF (1947), available on DVD from the Warner Archive.

Stanwyck plays Sandra Marshall, who shows up at the estate owned by Mark Caldwell (Flynn) and surprises him with the news that her name is Sandra Demarest and she's the widow of his very recently deceased nephew, Jim Demarest.

The disbelieving Mark nonetheless invites Sandra to stay while he searches for Jim's will, which names Sandra as the beneficiary.

Sandra is befriended by Jim's lonely, troubled sister Julie (Geraldine Brooks). The two women are frightened by screams in the night...and there are other odd things. Why is Jim's coffin closed, even to his widow, and where did his pipe collection go? And what's in Mark's locked laboratory?

Sandra is determined to find the answers...after all, as she tells Mark, "I am not a placid woman." It also turns out she knows very little about her late husband, and she has more than one surprise coming.

I wrote in 2011 that the film's parts are greater than the whole. I still find that true, although I like all the various parts so much that perhaps in the end it doesn't matter that the film's not perfect. It's a flawed but memorable film which I've now enjoyed twice and anticipate watching again in the future.

The movie's biggest problem is that the plot resolution is based on a concept I don't think is medically possible; that said, I found it went over easier this time around, because it wasn't a surprise and I was more willing to suspend disbelief.

I also found, as I anticipated after seeing the film the first time, that Flynn's character comes off more heroically when viewed with full knowledge of the plot. I enjoyed watching it more while appreciating him as a tragic rather than sinister character.

Stanwyck is gorgeous, in full Nancy Drew mode as she rides dumbwaiters and climbs rooftops in search of the truth. As with Flynn, a second viewing caused perceptions to shift; in this case, it intensified the feeling that she might be more foolish than brave.

This was one of the first films in which Brooks appeared; she was a memorable screen presence in her too-short feature film career. I most recently reviewed her in this year's Warner Archive release CHALLENGE TO LASSIE (1949). I've been hoping the Warner Archive will release her fine film EMBRACEABLE YOU (1948), which costarred Dane Clark.

CRY WOLF was directed by Peter Godfrey. It was shot in black and white by Carl E. Guthrie. The moody score is by Frank Waxman.

The film's fine supporting cast includes Jerome Cowan as Mark's brother, a U.S. senator, plus Richard Basehart, Patricia Barry, Rory Mallinson, John Ridgely, and Helene Thimig.

The Warner Archive print is more faded than many of the Archive DVDs I've seen, with occasional faint lines, but is still quite watchable. There are no extras.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this DVD. Warner Archive releases are MOD (manufactured on demand) and may be ordered from the Warner Archive Collection at the WBShop or from any online retailers where DVDs and Blu-rays are sold.


Blogger Biograph Consulting said...

Hi Laura: You absolutely nail the appeal of this film, an opportunity to see to classic Hollywood icons spar in their only appearance together--add to this all the elements that Warners could pull together for a cunning Isolated Mansion thriller--the Waxman score, shadows on the stair and in the hallways, and like Nancy Drew, Stanwyck stuffing herself into a dumbwaiter in an attempt to uncover the family mystery. The Big Reveal ain't so big, but by that time, we've been so thoroughly immersed in minor chords and shadows and the brave heroine's challenges--it doesn't matter.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks very much for your note! Glad to know you enjoyed it too. This film typically gets quite a knock from critics but, while acknowledging it has issues, I nonetheless find it appealing. You capture well several of the reasons why! I hope your added endorsement may cause fans of the stars who read this review to give it a try.

Best wishes,

10:41 PM  

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