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

Thursday, March 14, 2013

CRY WOLF (1947)

CRY WOLF (1947). Director: Peter Godfrey.

"I am not a placid girl."

James Demarest (Richard Basehart) has just been buried by his uncle, Mark Caldwell (Errol Flynn), when who should show up at the sprawling estate but a woman, Sandra (Barbara Stanwyck), claiming to be his widow. Sandra insists James married her to satisfy certain clauses in a will, and that there's a signed and proper copy of it somewhere. While the search for it goes on Sandra befriends Jim's sister, Julie (Geraldine Brooks), as the two hear strange cries in the night, wonder what's going on in the closed-off wing where Caldwell has his laboratory, and even imagine that Jim is still alive. Cry Wolf works up considerable suspense, even if the ending is a bit predictable and terribly creaky even by 1947 standards.

The movie is based on an old Gothic novel, and while Stanwyck is as good as ever, it's not the type of material that uses the actress to best advantage. For much of the movie Stanwyck is sneaking around like a grown-up Nancy Drew, climbing over trellises, ascending to secret rooms in dumb-waiters, and dropping through sky lights on to convenient cots. While she and the much less talented Flynn play well together, they don't really have much chemistry as a romantic couple. One can't imagine that either one of them was  especially pleased with this assignment. In her film debut, Geraldine Brooks makes a very positive impression, and Richard Basehart and Jerome Cowan are also notable in smaller roles. A very young Patricia Barry [Patricia White] is fine as Angela, the maid. Franz Waxman contributed an interesting theme.

Spoiler alert. The ending to the film is unintentionally hilarious. Flynn and Stanwyck never have a clinch, but instead turn their backs to the camera and walk rapidly away as if they were glad the last scene was over and they could get the hell off the set of this terrible picture!

Verdict: Absorbing, smooth, and intriguing for much of its length but the ending disappoints. **1/2.

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