Monday, June 10, 2019

Tonight's Movie: Portrait in Black (1960) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Lana Turner stars in PORTRAIT IN BLACK (1960), a slickly produced murder melodrama just released on Blu-ray by Kino Lorber.

PORTRAIT IN BLACK, produced by Ross Hunter, begins with evocative opening credits designed by Wayne Fitzgerald. It then dives right into the story: Bedridden Matthew Cabot (Lloyd Nolan) is a San Francisco shipping magnate who manages to torment his wife Sheila (Turner) and all around him despite his frail health.

Sheila is in love with Matthew's doctor, David Rivera (Anthony Quinn), and before much screen time has passed, Sheila and David decide that all their problems would be solved if Matthew received just a bit too much pain medicine and gently faded out of their lives.

What sounded easy when they first discussed it quickly becomes something which torments each of their guilty consciences. What's worse, someone else seems to know what happened and begins sending them threatening letters...

Also caught up in the goings-on are Sheila's stepdaughter Cathy (Sandra Dee) and her poor but honest boyfriend Blake (John Saxon), who runs a harbor towing business and has reasons for resenting Matthew. The film was a reunion for Dee and Saxon, who were also sweethearts in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (1958) two years previously.

Potentially suspicious characters threatening Sheila and David include Howard (Richard Basehart), Matthew's unscrupulous business partner, who wants to marry Sheila; the chauffeur (Ray Walston) with financial problems, who may be alert to Sheila's comings and goings; and the housekeeper (Anna May Wong) who suddenly views Sheila with disapproval.

There's also a nice role for Lana's old pal from MGM, Virginia Grey, as Matthew's secretary; the part rather calls to mind Nina Foch's role in EXECUTIVE SUITE (1954) a few years prior. Grey also had supporting roles in Turner's BACHELOR IN PARADISE (1961), LOVE HAS MANY FACES (1965), and MADAME X (1966). I'll be reviewing Kino Lorber's release of MADAME X here in the near future.

Things get worse and worse for David and Sheila as they try to cover their tracks, and needless to say all the stress pretty much puts an end to thoughts of romance. About an hour in to the film I suddenly had a couple pretty clear guesses about what was going to happen, which proved to be correct; however, I definitely didn't see a couple of the final twists coming. The last sequence is a real nail-biter, a nightmare come to life.

It's a fairly entertaining 112 minutes, though, as indicated, somewhat predictable. Additionally, while I love watching Lana, her character spends most of the movie whining and crying, which gets to be a bit old after a while.

That said, the fun for me was the pleasure of watching a good cast, not to mention eye-catching sets and Lana's elegant wardrobe by Jean Louis. Any film starring Turner, Dee, and Grey, in particular, is going to be worth a look from me.

PORTRAIT IN BLACK was directed by Michael Gordon. The widescreen photography was by Russell Metty.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks wonderful, as I have come to expect from that company. Extras include the trailer, a gallery of four additional trailers for films available from Kino Lorber, and a commentary track by Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood.

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


Anonymous Anonymous said...

LANA TURNER & LLOYD NOLAN had both been in PEYTON PLACE(1957). I cant remember if you mentioned that Lana had been in IMITATION OF LIFE with SANDRA DEE(1959). That time they played mother and daughter. One of the things I remember Lana from was her episodes of FALCON CREST during the earlier seasons of that prime-time soap. She played the mother of Chase(ROBERT FOXWORTH), the mother-in-law of Maggie(SUSAN SULLIVAN) and the grandmother of Cole and Vicky(WILLIAM R. MOSES and JAMIE ROSE). Her character was divorced from the late brother of ANGELA CHANNING(JANE WYMAN). Classic TV Fan

8:31 PM  
Blogger Muirmaiden said...

Sandra Dee and John Saxon had also co-starred together in "The Restless Years" (1958) and they were the leads in that film. Similar to "Peyton Place" but much more intimate. In 1991 they appeared together again in the play "Love Letters".

I enjoy this film for a soap opera suspense/melodrama. Definitely part of the fun - and those fashions and interiors!

4:16 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks to you both for your comments!

Classic TV Fan, I enjoyed IMITATION OF LIFE at the TCM Classic Film Festival a few years ago. I enjoyed Lana when she turned up on FALCON CREST...that series had quite a roster of guest stars over the years!

Muirmaiden, thanks for the mention of THE RESTLESS YEARS. I have a copy of it and need to pull it out as I recently enjoyed revisiting Saxon and Dee in THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE (1958). I didn't know they'd done LOVE LETTERS together, that's wonderful to know.

Best wishes,

6:06 PM  

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