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

Thursday, September 5, 2013


Ralph Meeker sexily enjoys Stanwyck's discomfiture
JEOPARDY (1953). Director: John Sturges.

Doug Stilwin (Barry Sullivan), his wife, Helen (Barbara Stanwyck), and their young son, Bobby (Lee Aaker), are vacationing in Mexico at an isolated beach where Doug used to fish with Army buddies. A big piece of timber on a wobbly jetty falls and pins Doug's leg to the ground, and he can't pull it out or wiggle free no matter how hard he tries. There are about four hours before the tide comes in and completely covers his head, so Helen takes off in the car to get help. Unfortunately, she goes from the frying pan to the fire when she enlists the aid of Lawson (Ralph Meeker), a murderer who is wanted by the police... Jeopardy is a harrowing suspense film bolstered by good performances and some frightening situations. Although one could argue that Stanwyck may not always get across the variety of emotions Helen must be feeling as she deals with Lawson and worries about her husband, she adds an interesting sub-text of sexuality to her scenes with Meeker, as if Helen -- despite the inappropriateness of it -- can't help but find virile, sexy bad boy Lawson quite attractive [she doesn't resist all that much when he grabs her and hungrily kisses her]. Sullivan gives one of his best performances, a man understandably close to panic, completely dependent on his wife, and who has to remain strong for the sake of his plucky son. Little Lee Aaker is an especially talented child actor and the perfect complement to the actors playing his parents, and Meeker manages to make his character a little more dimensional than others might have. Jeopardy is a good, suspenseful movie, but it could have used another twenty minutes and even more character development.

Verdict: As unsettling at times as it is entertaining. ***.

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