Lively, entertaining reviews of, and essays on, old and newer films and everything relating to them, written by professional author William Schoell.

Thursday, January 30, 2014


Barry Sullivan and Belita in Suspense
SUSPENSE (1946). Director: Frank Tuttle.

A down-and-out drifter named Joe (Barry Sullivan) gets a job hawking peanuts at an ice show. The star attraction is a blonde named Roberta (Belita), who is married to the owner of the show, Frank Leonard (Albert Dekker of Dr. Cyclops). Roberta fights her attraction to Joe until certain circumstances develop that lead the pair into some vaguely macabre situations ... Suspense does have some suspense of a minor kind -- and its main strength is that it's unpredictable -- but its chief flaw among many is that the central plot twist is so utterly implausible that it throws everything else out of whack. Joe is such a confusing and underwritten character that Sullivan, who has given some very good performances elsewhere, can do little but say his lines as written and try to deal with the contradictions [which might have been interesting in another movie] as best he can. Belita was basically a figure skater -- and a very good one -- and not a bad actress, either. She was similar in looks and deportment to Marsha Hunt. Unfortunately she got her start basically playing herself in movies from Monogram studios, so her career in films was a short one. Suspense is also a Monogram production -- and Belita's first thriller --  albeit it appears that the studio spent more money than usual on the picture. Dekker and Eugene Pallette [First Love] as a manager give their usual adept performances. A grown-up Bonita Granville [Nancy Drew -- Detective] plays one of Joe's former flames and is more than satisfactory. At least one of the big production numbers sort of stops the movie dead. Tuttle's direction is okay, but even Hitchcock might have had problems bringing this script to life. There is some mildly inventive business involving Roberta skating her way through a gauntlet of sharp swords, but not enough is done with it.

Verdict: Half-baked Alaska. **1/2.

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