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

Thursday, May 14, 2009


THE SIGN OF THE RAM (1948). Director: John Sturges.

In Cornwall Leah St. Aubyn (Susan Peters, pictured) became wheelchair-bound after a swimming accident in which she saved her stepchildren but was bashed against some rocks. Now she has a pathological fear of being abandoned, and those feelings are exacerbated by the arrival of a pretty secretary, Sherida (Phyllis Thaxter), whom she's afraid might stimulate the interest of her husband, Mallory (an unlikely Alexander Knox). Eventually Leah resorts to blatant and cruel falsehoods to manipulate the relationships of those around her (though it's a touch disingenuous that she gets blamed for one disturbed character's poisoning of another). Susan Peters, who was actually in a wheelchair after a freak hunting accident -- this was both her come back and her final film -- does her best and has her moments, but her performance is a little too obvious and director Sturges gives her no help at all. Ron Randell (the handsome doctor), Dame May Whitty (a busybody neighbor) and Peggy Ann Garner (one of the stepchildren) are also in the cast. Despite some interesting aspects, and partly because of its dimestore psychology, this is an unconvincing potboiler from start to finish. The tragic story of Peters' real life [dead at thirty-one!] would have made a more engrossing drama to be sure. The title refers to Leah's astrological sign.

Verdict: Watch Queen Bee with Joan Crawford instead. *1/2.

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