Saturday, December 10, 2016

Blu-ray debut of a 1952 camp classic: Crawford and Palance in David Miller's SUDDEN FEAR

TrustMovies had heard about, though never actually seenSUDDEN FEAR -- that early 1950s film with Joan Crawford in danger and loving every minute of it. Now that he has finally viewed the movie, he can understand why. Unaccountably drawing some good reviews at the time of its release (and later re-release) (and garnering four Oscar nominations!), the film mostly points up the utter gullibility of mid-20th-Century audiences and critics.

Interestingly enough, Sudden Fear pops along quite smartly and believably for its first 20-30 minutes, as we see a Broadway play in rehearsal, with the playwright (Ms Crawford), having to give a thumbs down to her leading man (Jack Palance, above) and finding a replacement -- over the objections of her producers and director (or maybe agent?) and of course the actor himself.

During this opening period (and even beyond it), the acting is excellent -- from everyone concerned (even Crawford comes off as real) -- and so is the movie's pace, storyline and direction (by David Miller). When the playwright later encounters the actor on a train bound for San Francisco (above), an apology ensues, and a relationship starts to bloom. So far so fine. Mr. Palance is especially sexy and even romantic and endearing (qualities he rarely showed on screen). But, of course, there is much more afoot here.

When the shoe finally drops (in a clever, even-if-we've-been-very-obviously-set-up manner), the idiocy begins. Logic goes the window, while Crawford gives in to every bad acting habit in which she had ever indulged -- and then doubles down on them. The movie quickly turns into unintentional camp of a particularly high order and can be enjoyed in this manner, if not for the increasingly stupid twists and turns of the plot -- which resolves itself in every bit as ludicrous and coincidental way as has all that's come before.

In the cast are luminaries like Gloria Grahame (above) and Mike Connors (when the latter was still known as "Touch"), and the cinematography apes noir, but the movie is so thoroughly heavy-handed and over-the-top that it goes well beyond noir (and all else).

The film also runs 110 minute -- too long for this kind of B-movie nonsense -- and the plot machinations are fed to us in such as obvious, did-you-get-that? Are-you-absolutely-sure? manner that they drag out what ought to be fast and furious into a snail-paced slough.

Still, Sudden Fear is fun -- if you're in a certain mood. After all, no less than François Truffaut is said to have declared the film "A masterpiece of cinema." (But, then, the French can be so perverse, can't they?)

From the Cohen Film Collection,in a new 2K restoration (that looks OK but nothing spectacular), and featuring an audio commentary by film historian Jeremy Arnold, the Blu-ray hits the street this Tuesday, December 13 -- for purchase or rental.

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