Sunday, July 9, 2017

Sudden Fear

So I watched Sudden Fear off my DVR because the TCM Shop has a restoration Blu-Ray available for purchase. Indeed, when Ben Mankiewicz presented the movie on TCM, in the outro after the movie he mentioned that Blu-Ray, probably in a bit of advertising necessary to get the rights to show the restoration print. In any case, though, we're happy to have seen the movie show up on TCM.

Joan Crawford plays Myra Hudson, who at the beginning of the movie is in New York City watching rehearsals for her newest play -- Myra is a successful playwright and heiress, although she comes from San Francisco and lives there when a new play doesn't bring her to New York. Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) is the romantic lead in her new play, cast by the director and producer, but Myra doesn't think Lester is right for the role. (No offense to Jack Palance, but he really didn't have romantic leading man looks.) So she fires him from the play.

Myra takes the train back to San Francisco, and who should show up on the train but Lester? They talk and eventually fall in love, and Lester decides to follow all the way back to San Francisco. Indeed, they fall enough in love that they decide to get married! It seems rather sudden, and we've seen enough of this nonsense in other movies like Suspicion or Leave Her to Heaven that we know such sudden marriages are going to run into serious problems.

In this case, that other problem is Irene (Gloria Grahame). She was an old flame of Lester's, although as it turns out she's really his current flame. Lester's marriage to Myra is a sham -- not that Myra knows -- and Lester is biding his time until he can get enough money off of Myra to live comfortable. Unfortunately, Myra is making a new will, one that will leave Lester a modest sum, but not as much as he would have wanted. He and Irene discuss this, and figure that they have to make Myra die in an "accident" before she can sign the new will.

Myra, however, finds out! She uses a fancy dictaphone system, and forgot to turn it off when she dictated the new will. And when Lester and Irene discussed offing Myra, they did it in the room with the dictaphone, which of course picked up the plot and recorded it for Myra to hear. So she does what any rational person who finds she's going to be offed does: first she panics, and then she comes up with a plan to foil her would-be killers.

Sudden Fear is reasonable fun, although it does tread territory we feel like we've seen several times before. It also runs a bit long. Still, Crawford and Palance both give very good performances, and both got nominated for Oscars. The climax, with a lot of twists, is suspenseful enough although it does also elicit a few laughs at the absurdity. Part of that absurdity probably has to do with the fact that the writers had to come up with an ending that satisfied the Production Code.

Overall, Sudden Fear is well worth a watch by anyone, but especially Joan Crawford fans will like it. It's too bad that it only seems to be available on a higher-priced Blu-Ray and not a lower priced DVD, but thankfully it's available period.

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