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

 
WHIRLPOOL (director: Otto Preminger; screenwriters: Ben Hecht/Andrew Solt/based on the Guy Endore novel "Methinks the Lady"; cinematographer: Arthur Miller; editor: Louis Loeffler; music: David Raksin; cast: Gene Tierney (Ann Sutton), Richard Conte (Dr. Bill Sutton), Jose Ferrer (David Korvol), Charles Bickford (Lt. Colton), Barbara O'Neill (Theresa Randolph), Constance Collier (Tina Cosgrove), Alex Gerry (Dr. Peter Duval), Ruth Lee (Miss Hall), Larry Keating (Mr. Simms, Store Manager), Ian MacDonald (Mr. Hogan, Store Detective), Eduard Franz (Martin Avery, Lawyer); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Otto Preminger; Twentieth Century-Fox; 2006)

 
"Directed with a healthy feel for his twisted characters by Otto Preminger."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

There's something compelling about this ridiculous psychological melodrama that pokes holes at a seemingly perfect marriage, going against the trend of those 1940 Hollywood melodramas. The film's heavy says "A successful marriage is usually based on what a husband and wife don't know about each other." It's directed with a healthy feel for his twisted characters by Otto Preminger ("Laura"/"Angel Face"/"Saint Joan") and adapted from Guy Endore's haunting novel "Methinks the Lady." The heavy-handed corny screenplay by Ben Hecht (the blacklisted Hecht wrote it under the pseudonym Lester Barstow) and Andrew Solt at times makes you wonder if this picture can actually be cohesive enough to work, yet it's always entertaining and easily crosses over into dark film noir territory.

Ann Sutton (Gene Tierney) is the beautiful and aristocratic wife of noted Los Angeles psychologist Dr. Bill Sutton (Richard Conte), who in the opening scene embarrassingly gets pinched by the store detective for shoplifting an expensive jewelry pin and is brought before the store manager. David Korvol (Jose Ferrer) is a smug hypnotist who recognizes Ann and comes to her aid by persuading the manager to charge the brooch to her account and not to prosecute. We soon learn that Korvol's a charlatan who swindles rich women and acted not out of generosity but because he has a macabre scheme in which he wants to use the vulnerable Ann. When Korvol recognizes that Ann is an habitual kleptomania, something her brilliant hubby failed to discover, and also has a sleeping disorder, he maneuvers to treat her for insomnia at his hotel residence. Ann is too ashamed to have her hubby treat her and instead meets with the quack for a week, whose treatment does get her to sleep. Ann does this despite being warned by a bitter former patient and mistress, Theresa Randolph (Barbara O'Neill), that he's a scoundrel. 

The centerpiece scene has Korvol while in a state of self-hypnosis right after having his gall bladder removed,  jump out of bed, get in his car and go to Terry's apartment to strangle the woman who is about to press charges unless he repays the $60,000 he swindled from her. Korvol not only uses Ann's scarf and leaves it at the crime scene, but hypnotizes Ann so that she steals the records of Terry's revealing therapy sessions with Ann's husband. Korvol then has Ann bring the records to Terry's apartment, where the lady in a trance is discovered by the police while he jumps back into his hospital bed with the perfect alibi. When hubby comes to Ann's aid at the police station, she's so confused that she's not sure if she's guilty or not. Though hubby's sure she's innocent (he's almost as smug as Korvol).

Warning: spoiler in the next paragraph.

Dr. Bill then shines as a therapist as he figures out that Korvol hypnotized his loving wife, who just has this lingering kleptomania problem never treated from childhood and that he can cure her of this neuroses if he gets her off the murder charges. It gets resolved when Dr. Bill convinces the helpful investigating detective, Lt. Colton (Charles Bickford), to return to Terry's apartment with Ann and he'll refresh her memory by undoing Kolten's hypnotic hold he has on in his wife. At Terry's place, the trio are held at gunpoint by Korvol who pulled the same self-hypnosis trick to get out of his hospital bed and retrieve the damaging record before the police. In trying to escape, Korvol bleeds to death.

It's certainly a daffy story, no argument on that from me. But it's noteworthy how Preminger takes this routine melodrama and through making it an interesting character study of his mostly sympathetic flawed characters (except for Ferrer) gets around the holes in the story.

REVIEWED ON 2/8/2008        GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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