Thursday, April 25, 2013

Rage in Heaven

TCM is showing Rage in Heaven today, although by the time you read this post, you'll probably have missed the movie. I briefly mentioned it back in April 2009, if only to point out that it wasn't avaiable on DVD. Thanks to the Warner Archive, however, that's changed, although the standard caveat about Warner Archive DVDs being a bit pricier than average stands.

Robert Montgomery stars as Philip Monrell, the scion of a family of wealthy industrialists in England. He's just returned from Paris where, unbeknownst to the rest of the family, he was seeking psychiatric help. When he returns home, he meets his mother's (Lucile Watson) new personal secretary Stella (Ingrid Bergman), and falls in love with her. The only thing is, the chief engineer at the company, Ward (George Sanders), also falls for Stella, somthing which makes Philip insanely jealous. Anyhow, Philip gets married to Stella, despite the fact that he spent time seemingly encouraging Stella to start a relationship with Ward, and despite the fact that Philip is an insecure drip. That insecurity only serves to make Philip even more jealous. Well, it also serves to cause problems when the time comes for him to run the factory. The workers don't like him, and eventually revolt.

All of this builds up to Philip's reaching the breaking point. When I commented on the movie back in 2009, I mentioned that I would compare it to Leave Her to Heaven. Not only is Philip as insanely jealous as Gene Tierney's Ellen Behrend, he fakes his own murder, committing suicide and making it look as though Ward did it. And there's enough circumstation evidence that Ward could have done it, especially his fingerprints on the murder weapon. The viewer of course knows the real story, but the characters in the film don't, and Ward is found guilty in a court of law, leaving Stella frantic to try to find the evidence that will exonerate Ward before he can be executed.

It's an idea that's interesting, since it was so well carried out in Leave Her to Heaven. Here, though, everything is a mess. The movie was released in 1941, but obviously has to be set several years earlier, since the characters are able to travel freely between London and Paris, which at the time the movie was released would have been occupied by the Nazis. That's the least of the movie's problems. The movie also has the bad, or at least the inappropriate, part of the MGM touch, much like Johnny Eager, another movie with a great idea that just goes way wrong somehow. The rest have to do with the personal problems the cast was having, at least according to Ingrid Bergman in her autobiography. She says that Montgomery was assigned by the studio to do the movie, didn't want to do it, and rebelled by giving as flat a performance as possible. Sanders didn't like the movie, and Bergman didn't like the director. That must have been one interesting set.

As I said at the beginning, Rage in Heaven has gotten a Warner Archive release, if you want to see how a movie can go so wrong.

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