|Jean Simmons and Robert Mitchum|
ANGEL FACE (1952). Producer/director: Otto Preminger.
"If you want to play with matches, that's your business, but not in gas-filled rooms."
Ambulance driver Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) goes out on a call to a California estate where Mrs. Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil of Stella Dallas) has had a close call with a gas jet in her room. Frank meets the woman's step-daughter, Diane (Jean Simmons), and the two begin a sort of romance, despite the fact that Frank has a steady and reliable gal in Mary (Mona Freeman). Diane loves her father (Herbert Marshall of Girls' Dormitory), a writer who is down on his luck and living off of his wife, whom Diane loathes. Then there's a horrendous accident in which two deaths occur ... how much did Diane have to do with it? Angel Face is a very entertaining melodrama with very good performances from the entire cast, which includes Leon Ames as a defense lawyer and Kenneth Tobey as another ambulance driver with an eye for Mary. There are two incredible car crash sequences, a knock-out ending, and a fine score by Dimitri Tiomkin. For my money this is superior to Preminger's Laura. Some people find similarities in this to Leave Her to Heaven, made in 1945, and they probably aren't wrong.
Verdict: Zesty, absorbing film noir with some bite to it. ***1/2.