Sunday, February 24, 2019

Tonight's Movie: My Name is Julia Ross (1945) - An Arrow Academy Blu-ray Review

The classic thriller MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS (1945) has just been released in a terrific Blu-ray edition by Arrow Academy.

I first saw this film in 2010; after the passage of nearly a decade, it was a pleasure to revisit the movie via this sparkling Blu-ray. The movie couldn't look any better, and it's presented with terrific extras.

Given the bloated running times of so many movies today, modern filmmakers would do well to study this 65-minute mystery and learn that "less can be more."

Director Joseph H. Lewis, cinematographer Burnett Guffey, and a fine cast headed by Nina Foch collaborated on a gripping, efficiently told gem which is over and done in not much more than an hour, yet leaves the viewer completely satisfied with an excellent cinematic experience.

As the film begins, young Julia (21-year-old Foch) is facing a gloomy, rainy day in London. She's jobless, behind on her rent, and lovelorn, as her crush Dennis (Roland Varno) has mailed her an announcement that he's marrying someone else.

Her luck seems to turn, though, when she answers a job agency ad and finds a job as live-in personal secretary to Mrs. Hughes (Dame May Whitty) and her son Ralph (George Macready). What's more, Dennis turns up, decidedly not on his seems his bride-to-be got tired of listening to him talking about Julia all the time.

That evening Julia moves into Mrs. Hughes' London home and goes to sleep...then wakes up two days later locked in a bedroom in a mansion on the coast of Cornwall. Her wardrobe is different, she's wearing a wedding ring, and everyone insists on calling her Marian.

Try as she might, Julia can't find a way to escape, despite telling everyone she meets "My name is Julia Ross!" The villagers all think she's mentally disturbed and ignore her. An attempt to mail a letter to Dennis in London is thwarted when Ralph replaces the letter with blank paper, but perhaps he's not as clever as he thinks...

Foch is onscreen for a majority of the film's running time, and she keeps viewers interested as we watch the progression of her emotions, from anxiety to joy, confusion to desperation to steely resolve and back to desperation. Julia may initially seem mild-mannered but she proves herself to be a gutsy woman dealing with a bizarre situation few could imagine. Foch, incidentally, would later be well-known here in Southern California teaching acting for decades at USC.

Whitty is particularly good, veering from being a sweet little old lady to a cold-hearted killer. She's especially chilling near the end of the film when she gives her son directions on how to deal with Julia.

 Macready is also effective as the character who is the one who's truly mentally disturbed, with a penchant for slashing things up with a knife. The cast also includes Doris Lloyd, Anita Sharpe-Bolster, Queenie Leonard, and Evan Thomas.

The excellent extras include a commentary track by the Film Noir Foundation's Alan K. Rode, a 22-minute featurette with Nora Fiore (also known as The Nitrate Diva), and the trailer. Rode is always a personable, interesting speaker, and his commentary includes a great deal of information on cast members and filmmakers, particularly the fascinating Foch, as well as thoughts on the film's style. Fiore is likewise an articulate speaker who discusses the evolution of Lewis's career along with analysis of the film and its connection with women's changing roles at the end of WWII.

The first pressing from Arrow will also include reversible case cover art and a collector's booklet with an essay by Adrian Martin; these items were not included in the advance copy I reviewed.

Arrow previously released another film directed by Lewis, TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN (1958), which I reviewed in 2017. Arrow has also just released a Blu-ray of another unusual mystery helmed by Lewis, SO DARK THE NIGHT (1946); like MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS, the new Blu-ray has several interesting extras, including a commentary track by Farran Smith Nehme (the Self-Styled Siren) and Glenn Kenny. I reviewed a DVD release of the film SO DARK THE NIGHT in 2014.

MY NAME IS JULIA ROSS is a recommended release.

Thanks to Arrow Academy for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray.


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