Monday, January 17, 2022

Tonight's Movie: Because of You (1952) - A Kino Lorber Blu-ray Review

Last month Kino Lorber released the fifth volume in its Dark Side of Cinema series.

The films in the set are BECAUSE OF YOU (1952), OUTSIDE THE LAW (1956), and THE MIDNIGHT STORY (1957). Of these movies I've previously only seen THE MIDNIGHT STORY, at the 2019 Noir City Film Festival.

BECAUSE OF YOU stars a trio of actors I love, Loretta Young, Jeff Chandler, and Frances Dee.

Young plays Christine Carroll, who as the film begins is a bleached blonde about to marry Mike Monroe (Alex Nicol).

Unknown to Christine, Mike is Really Bad News; because he hands her an envelope to put in her purse, Christine is arrested as an accessory to his crimes and sent to prison along with Mike.

In prison Christine trains in nursing; when she gets out -- now her natural brunette -- she goes to work at the veterans hospital in Long Beach, California, where she meets Steve Kimberly (Chandler). Steve was a pilot who is wounded both physically and mentally; his wartime trauma is layered on top of having witnessed his parents' death when he was a child.

Steve and Christine fall in love, but Christine avoids telling Steve about her past, fearful he can't handle it, and when the truth comes out some years later, after Mike reappears, Christine and Steve's marriage goes off the rails.

Christine and Steve are separated for a number of years, with Steve's twin sister Susan (Dee) helping to raise Steve and Chris's unhappy little girl, Kim (Jeri Weil and later Gayle Reed).

Will Christine and Steve ever find their way back to one another?

Given the cast this is a movie I really wanted to like, and portions of it are wonderful. Chandler and Young give sensitive performances, especially in the early going, and are beautifully filmed in black and white by Russell Metty. The film also has a series of attractive exterior locations, making it a very nice-looking movie.

When the movie is focused on Christine and Steve's swoony romance, it's great, but as Christine resists the instructions of her parole officer (Helen Wallace) that she must tell Steve the truth and get permission before marrying, things start to go off the rails. A secret marriage in Mexico before Christine's parole date and not cluing Steve in to her past will lead nowhere good.

It would be one thing if there were a brief period of misunderstanding and then reconciliation, with the couple dealing with any resulting issues together, but instead the lead characters are miserable for at least half of the 95-minute running time.

The screenplay by Ketti Frings, based on a story by Thelma Robinson, wrings every possible melodramatic twist from the story and seems determined to torture the characters, keeping Young and Chandler from sharing much screen time. A section where Christine goes on the road as an entertainer is such a detour that it's downright annoying, and it's simply not that enjoyable to watch them suffering, singly or together. We also spend time with their sad little girl.

Dee is good, as always, as Steve's blunt-talking but sympathetic sister. It's something of a unique role as she never hesitates to tell Chris exactly how things are, even if it's bad news, but she also wants Chris and Steve to be happy. Unfortunately Susan's straight talk doesn't extend to little Kim, who grows up not knowing the full truth about her parentage...

The solid supporting cast includes Alexander Scourby, Lynne Roberts, Morris Ankrum, and Mae Clarke.

BECAUSE OF YOU was directed by Joseph Pevney, who made many films I've really enjoyed. He had the elements of a good movie here, with a fantastic cast doing their best with the material, but there was only so much he could do with this script.

The Kino Lorber Blu-ray looks and sounds very good. Extras are the trailer, a gallery of four additional trailers for other films available from Kino Lorber; and a commentary track by Samm Deighan.

Kino Lorber Studio Classics has recently released two other films in which Young gives strong performances, THE ACCUSED (1949) and most recently CHINA (1943). I'll be reviewing both here at a future date, as well as the other two films in this Dark Side of Cinema set.

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


Blogger Margot Shelby said...

These Film Noir Volumes are for the most part really good, though a few times I doubt if the movies are really Noir. Because of You actually doesn't sound like one? I haven't seen it, what would you call it?

1:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

I'd call it a crime-tinged tragic melodrama. The opening and midway scenes with Alex Nicol's character plus Loretta's jail time add the crime aspect, and I suppose one could say there's a touch of noir simply from how bleak Loretta's life becomes.

Thinking more about it today and elaborating on what I wrote about the couple being separated too long -- part of the movie's problem is they put the relationship through so much there is just no way to "fix" it in a brief finale, which is what the movie attempts to do.

Some of the films in the noir sets really aren't noir, but I'm simply excited that they're putting out so many "never on DVD" films, even if they don't fit the description! That includes this film, even though I was unhappy with it. At least it's available now! :)

Best wishes,

2:23 PM  

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