Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Crime of Passion

I mentioned a while back that I had DVRed Crime of Passion when it showed up on Noir Alley back in the spring, but didn't do a full-length blog post because it was out of print on DVD. Except that it was scheduled for a DVD release on September 5, which is of course yesterday. For some reason, both the TCM Shop and Amazon are listing the DVD as scheduled for a release yesterday, but either on backorder (TCM Shop) or temporarily out of stock (Amazon). Having said that, Amazon is currently offering it via streaming video.

Stanwyck plays Kathy Ferguson, who at the start of the movie is a women's advice columnist at a San Francisco newspaper, single and proud of her career. This even though she writes sappy crap. San Francisco is in the news because a female murder suspect from Los Angeles has fled there, and the LA police send a pair of cops up to find the suspect and bring her back to justice in Los Angeles. It's because of this that Kathy meets Bill (Sterling Hayden) and his partner Charlie (Royal Dano).

Both of the cops are dismissive of Kathy, Charlie more so, but Kathy apparently begins to feel some sort of lust for Bill. She was going to take a better job in New York, but she suddenly decides to drop everything and go down to Los Angeles to marry Bill! Not only this, but she's going to become a housewife and give up the columnist gig! It's never really made clear why Kathy does something so out of character. Maybe her biological clock was ticking, although Stanwyck in real life was pushing 50 by the time she made the movie.

Back to Kathy's idiot motivation, she soon realizes she's done something incredibly stupid, since she doesn't care for the gossipy wives, and the men don't respect her intellect. Eventually Kathy gets so fed up with it that she decides she's going to help her husband's career by getting to know the Popes. Tony (Raymond Burr) is Bill's boss, married to Alice (Fay Wray). If she can do this, she can possibly put a good word in for Bill and get him a promotion. So she starts stalking Mrs. Pope and eventually causes an accident.

Mr. Pope sees right through this, asking Kathy what she was doing over there since it was way out of the way for her. But in a movie where several of the main characters have screwed up motivations, he's willing to succumb to her attempts to seduce him! To be fair, Mrs. Pope has been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, hoping that hubby would retire so she doesn't have to worry about him. And if he does retire, well there's a great career opportunity for Bill. And if Mr. Pope passes Bill by? Well hell hath no fury like a woman scorned!

Crime of Passion is a movie that I have decidedly mixed feelings about. The movie is really only partly a noir, being at the end of the noir cycle; the other part is more of a soap opera as you could easily see a Joan Crawford character doing many of the things Barbara Stanwyck's character does. The characters act in ways that are almost ludicrous at times, leading me to laugh at times when that most likely wasn't the intent of the movie.

Stanwyck does the best she can with the material. Burr does fairly well; he was still a heavy at the time as it was still another few months before Perry Mason would premiere on TV. But his character suddenly finds his conscience again, making for a rapid volte-face in yet another plot veer. Sterling Hayden doesn't have to do much other than be sturdy, something which was easy for him to do.

All in all, Crime of Passion is not without interest, but is another of those movies that would probably be better in a box set.

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