Sunday, September 26, 2021

Tonight's Movie: Alias Nick Beal (1949) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

In 2014 I had the pleasure of seeing ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949) for the first time at the Noir City Film Festival in Hollywood.

The movie was shown in a 35mm print -- with costar Audrey Totter's daughter and granddaughter in the audience, for good measure.

Remarkably, this excellent Paramount Pictures film never had a U.S. DVD or VHS release. That's now changed thanks to Kino Lorber, which recently released the film on both Blu-ray and DVD as part of the Kino Lorber Studio Classics line.

Ray Milland gives what I consider an Oscar-worthy performance as the mysterious, creepy Nick Beal, which as the film's title implies, is an alias. Beal's true identity gradually becomes apparent as a tale of good versus evil unfolds.

Beal tempts Joseph Foster (Thomas Mitchell), an honest district attorney being considered to run for governor, by making it possible for Foster to do good things, albeit in unethical ways. Foster initially cooperates with Beal, somewhat against his better judgment, but it's a short hop from the corners Beal cuts to darker things; the more Beal "helps" Foster's career, the more he demands in return.

Beal also entices the down-and-out Donna (Totter) to tempt Foster off the straight and narrow. Donna is quicker than Foster to realize just who Beal might be and becomes utterly terrified. Eventually both Donna and Foster must decide whether to attempt exorcising Beal from their lives...but how?

One of the film's great pleasures is George Macready, who so often played smooth-talking Nick Beal types himself, as a minister who offers wise counsel to Foster. Whenever the minister shows up, Beal keeps his back to him as long as he can, an interesting hint as to Beal's true nature. For his part, the minister feels as though he's seen Beal somewhere before...

Milland is downright unnerving as cold-eyed, smooth-talking Beal, whose unexpected comings and goings are unseen by many. I find Milland quite remarkable in the role; for instance, look at his eyes when he's angered. As I watched this time, I found myself musing whether it was at all stressful spending weeks playing a character that evil, or if an actor like Milland would simply find it an interesting assignment.

Totter is superb as the woman Beal finds at a waterfront dive and lavishes with sapphires, silk, and sable. Once she realizes who she's dealing with, untangling herself will be more challenging than she realizes.

Mitchell can always be counted on for a sure-footed performance, though as I noted in my earlier review of the film, he is clearly several years older than his character is said to be. There's no reason the character couldn't have been older so it was an odd choice to claim Foster was in his 40s. Geraldine Wall plays Foster's longsuffering wife.

The cast is filled with many familiar faces in smaller roles including Henry O'Neill as a judge; Fred Clark as a corrupt politician; Darryl Hickman as a troubled young boy Foster attempts to reform; King Donovan as Foster's aide; Elaine Riley handling the phone on election night; Bess Flowers listening to Foster's speech; and Douglas Spencer as a man who attempts to blackmail Foster.

This 93-minute movie was perfectly directed by John Farrow, who also directed Milland's excellent film THE BIG CLOCK (1948). Lionel Lindon filmed the movie in black and white. The outstanding screenplay was by Jonathan Latimer, from a story by Mindret Lord.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray print is outstanding, with equally excellent sound.

Disc extras include the trailer; seven additional trailers for film noir and Ray Milland titles available from Kino Lorber; and best of all, a commentary track by Eddie Muller.

Highly recommended.

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


Blogger Vienna said...

Havent seen this one in a long time so will definitely get the new disc. Love Audrey Totter.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Laura said...

It's a beautiful print, Vienna! And Audrey is so good, one of her best performances, I think. Enjoy!!

Best wishes,

8:57 AM  

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