DENNIS SCHWARTZ 
IS THERE ANY GOOD 
IN SAYING 
EVERYTHING ABOUT A MOVIE?

 
UNDERCURRENT (director: Vincente Minnelli; screenwriters: from the novel You Were There by Thelma Strabel/Edward Chodorov/George Oppenheimer/ Marguerite Roberts; cinematographer: Karl Freund; editor: Ferris Webster; music: Herbert Stothart; cast: Katharine Hepburn (Ann Hamilton), Robert Taylor (Alan Garroway), Robert Mitchum (Michael Garroway), Edmund Gwenn (Prof. "Dink" Hamilton), Marjorie Main (Lucy), Jayne Meadows (Sylvia Lea Burton), Clinton Sundberg (Mr. Warmsley), Dan Tobin (Prof. Joseph Bangs), Kathryn Card (Mrs. Foster), Leigh Whipper (George), Charles Trowbridge (Justice Putnam); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Pandro S. Berman; MGM; 1946)

 
"It successfully takes on the theme from Gaslight."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Vincente Minnelli ("Meet Me in St. Louis"/"Father of the Bride") known mostly through his upbeat MGM musicals changes direction with this tearjerker femme appealing romantic melodrama, that can also be viewed as a heavy going psychological film noir (at least, stylishly noir through the brilliantly dark photography of Karl Freund). It's based on a story You Were There by Thelma Strabel and written by Edward Chodorov, George Oppenheimer and Marguerite Roberts. Though overlong and filled with too many misleading clues about which brother is the baddie, the acting is superb even though both Katharine Hepburn and Robert Mitchum are cast against type (a weak woman and a sensitive man). It successfully takes on the theme from Gaslight.

Ann Hamilton (Katharine Hepburn) is the intelligent, timid, dowdy, unsophisticated, sheltered and high-minded daughter of kindly Professor "Dink" Hamilton (Edmund Gwenn). She falls for wealthy, handsome and charming San Francisco airplane manufacturer Alan Garroway (Robert Taylor), and they marry after a whirlwind courtship that doesn't leave them much time to know each other that well. They trek to Washington, D.C., where she's embarrassed by her wardrobe in front of his society friends and asks hubby to show her the way to dress and behave. She also discovers that Alan has an obsessive hatred for his brother Michael (Robert Mitchum), which he can't hide though he tries to remove everything about his brother from his life, and he tells her it's because his brother stole money from the business, is a womanizer, stole his former girlfriend and is a party animal. The poetry and musical loving brother, his opposite in taste and personality, has long been missing. The couple visit Alan's family home in Middleburg, Virginia, where the unstable stableboy tells her that Alan's wild horse was unmercifully beaten by him and she can't help but notice that the pet Dalmation shies away from him in fear. When Ann plays a familiar Brahms piece on the piano, Alan goes bonkers and makes her stop. He then lies, telling her it was the piece his invalid mom played when she died. Ann later gets it out of the caretaker George (Leigh Whipper) that was the tune Alan's brother Michael usually played. Warmsley (Clinton Sundberg), Alan's head bookkeeper, tells Alan he's needed back in San Francisco for business. While the couple are there, Ann accidentally meets in the restaurant Alan's former girlfriend Sylvia (Jayne Meadows). She thinks Alan murdered Michael and tells Ann all the nasty things Alan said about him are lies. Alan is called away to a business meeting in San Francisco, and Ann takes the 30-mile trip to the ranch Michael once owned, now owned by Alan, to find out more about the mysterious man she's becoming obsessed with and also to help Alan get over his deeply rooted psychological problem by learning more about his past. Ann meets Michael there, but he tells her he's the caretaker. That evening a furious Alan shows up to chew her out for spying on something that doesn't concern her. The couple return to Middleburg where Michael shows up unannounced and confronts his brother to accuse him of killing during wartime a gentle elderly German refugee, employed by him, in order to steal his invention on "flight control," which made him a wealthy man and a war profiteer. Michael is afraid he'll now also ruin Ann's life and tells him to tell Ann the truth or he'll tell her. He says Ann is too fine a person to be with a murderer, but if she accepts you so will I and remain silent. But when Alan tries to tell Ann, he sees that she can never accept living with a murderer and he goes into a rage as he tries to keep her locked up on the estate. She now hates him, and it concludes with an insanely jealous Alan getting his comeuppance, before he can murder Ann, from the wild horse he never could tame.

REVIEWED ON 5/13/2006        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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