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Monday, July 22, 2019

"Sudden Fear" (1952)

After a slump, Joan Crawford's career came roaring back with this big fat hit, and justifiably so. Much like her classic "Mildred Pierce", this is one of those mash-up film noirs, equal parts woman's picture and crime thriller. She's a wealthy San Francisco heiress who's also a successful Broadway playwright (only in the movies, folks). When a May/September romance blooms with a opportunistic younger actor, a vulpine Jack Palance with more cheekbones than an ad for Botox, things turn shady. See, Palance is really in love with his girlfriend on the side, she of the bee-stung lips and kazoo-like voice, Gloria Graham. What if they could bump off the old gal and get all her moolah for themselves? But then, what if La Crawford finds out about the seedy scheme and decides to turn the tables with some nefarious shenanigans of her own? The script is so chock-a-block full of plot it's like a Rube Goldberg machine, there are so many set-ups you see coming but like a row of dominoes, it's so satisfying to see them all pay off. There's one famous and wordless suspense setpiece that Joan does wonders with...it's all in the eyes and tormented facial gestures, and it's agonizing. No wonder she pulled off an Oscar nod for it. Kudos to director David Miller, there's not a bad composition or needless shot in the whole picture. And if you dig really deep you might find a message here about single working women of a certain age and whether they really need the love of man to find true happiness. SPOILER: they don't.


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