Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Tonight's Movie: Storm Warning (1951) - A Warner Archive Blu-ray Review

An excellent cast stars in STORM WARNING (1951), recently released on Blu-ray by the Warner Archive Collection.

The movie stars two of my very favorite actresses, Ginger Rogers and Doris Day, along with Ronald Reagan and Steve Cochran.

Despite the good cast I'd previously avoided tackling this film because of the tough subject matter. I'm glad I finally caught up with it, and I found it a suspenseful and for the most part very good film.

Rogers plays Marsha Mitchell, a traveling dress model who makes a detour from her planned route to pay a brief surprise visit to her sister Lucy (Day). Marsha hasn't seen Lucy for a couple of years, and in the intervening time Lucy has married Hank (Cochran) and is expecting a baby.

When Marsha arrives in town on a bus she has trouble finding a cab to take her to Lucy's house, and she suddenly finds herself witnessing a horrible scene in which a group of robed men kill a bound man they've pulled from the jail.

The masks fall off a couple of the men, and a man who shoots the murder victim will later prove to be Hank, Lucy's husband.

Despite the pleadings of District Attorney Burt Rainey (Reagan), Marsha keeps quiet about what she saw for Lucy's sake and plans to leave town...but then things take a violent turn with Hank.

This was an interesting film which had curious echoes of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951); the film version of Tennessee Williams' 1947 play had been completed just weeks before STORM WARNING was shot.

In both stories a visiting sister ends up in a battle with a lout of a husband over her pregnant younger sister, with the husband ultimately physically attacking the sister. Otherwise the plots diverge, but I couldn't help noticing the similarities which do exist. When Cochran is dressed in a t-shirt he certainly calls to mind Stanley Kowalski.

Rogers and Day are both outstanding in strictly dramatic roles. Some of Rogers' best acting is wordless as she struggles with what to say and do, trying at all times to protect her sister from further hurt. Watching Day crumble from the loving young wife into a betrayed woman is heartbreaking.

Reagan is solid in a fairly perfunctory role as the good guy, while Cochran is all over the place emotionally; his wild performance is in stark contrast to Reagan's calm demeanor.

Cochran's most striking sequence comes early on when he sobs to his wife and Marsha about wishing he hadn't been at the killing; when he leaves the room and listens to the women talking, the waterworks immediately stop and he listens with satisfaction as to their reactions. Realizing he was only giving a "performance" for their benefit is a startling moment which clarifies to the viewer that he is a truly bad man.

The script by Richard Brooks and Daniel Fuchs mostly does a good job tackling the evil of the KKK and the difficulty of getting frightened people to testify against the group. My main complaint about the film is I felt the climactic sequence went over the top, coming off as overwrought and cartoony; something a little more restrained might have been more effective, but maybe that's just me.

Hugh Sanders as Klan leader Barr is also a little overdone, but I suppose maybe there aren't many nuances to play for a character that bad...

The movie was effectively filmed in black and white by Carl Guthrie at a number of interesting-looking locations in Corona, California, in Riverside County. It was directed by Stuart Heisler and runs 93 minutes.

The supporting cast includes Sean McClory, Lloyd Gough, Ned Glass, and Ross Elliott.

The Warner Archive Blu-ray looks and sounds terrific. The Blu-ray is a new master from a 4K scan of the original nitrate camera negative.

Disc extras consist of the trailer; the short ONE WHO CAME BACK (1951); and the Merrie Melodies cartoon BUNNY HUGGED (1951).

STORM WARNING is a worthwhile social drama with a pair of excellent lead performances by Rogers and Day. Combined with the excellent Blu-ray print, this is a recommended disc.

Thanks to the Warner Archive for providing a review copy of this Blu-ray. Warner Archive Blu-rays may be ordered from the Amazon Warner Archive Collection Store, Movie Zyng, or from any online retailers were Blu-rays are sold.


Anonymous Barry Lane said...

I saw Storm Warning in a theatre and found it compelling but tnto thrilling or dynamic, although Reagan's final moments walking through the mob and addressing them was memorable.

5:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed. Great performance from Ginger Rogers

2:12 AM  
Anonymous Kenji said...

It’s notable that the film treats the Klan as merely a violent gang of phonics and scammers, and no mention is made of the group’s racism. Indeed there are no Black characters at all, although the film does Convey the the stifling one-party rule that has dominated the South since the Civil War, and has rebuilt its program of tribal hatred and fear in the last few years. Ironic, too, to see Reagan as a warrior for social justice when just a few years later he would be siding with McCarthy against his own movie colleagues. On a different note, much is made of how tiny the town is when Ginger is dropped off there. But go around the corner, and the place is crawling with packed nightclubs and the streets are full of giant cars,; also, Steve Cochran is the ONLY character who speaks with a southern accent, so the setting is not exactly convincing, even if the film overall still manages to be rather disturbing — maybe mire-se since not enough has changed in the 72 years since this was made.

1:48 AM  
Anonymous Kenji said...

Oy,, the typos! Phonies and more-so, among other corrections...

1:37 AM  

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