|Tense date: Richard Conte and Susan Hayward|
HOUSE OF STRANGERS (1949). Director: Joseph L. Mankiewicz.
Gino Monetti (Edward G. Robinson) is the opera-loving head of a bank and has four sons, one of whom, the lawyer Max (Richard Conte of Thieves' Highway), he seems to love unconditionally. The oldest son, Joe (Luthor Adler) is bitter that Gino treats him with disdain and employs him only as a poorly-paid bank teller. Pietro (Paul Valentine of Love Happy) resents the fact that his father thinks he's stupid. Tony (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) seems more interested in the ladies than in anything else. Although Max has a pretty fiancee named Maria (Debra Paget), he can't help but be attracted to a zesty, very self-confident lady named Irene (Susan Hayward), who comes to him for legal advice and with whom he enters into a sexy if exasperating love-hate affair. Then Gino discovers that his unorthodox approaches to lending have brought him under the scrutiny of bank officials and he may go to jail. Max has a scheme to get his father out of trouble, but he doesn't reckon with Joe's hatred ... House of Strangers is an absorbing, well-acted drama that just misses being really special, but is still quite worthwhile. Although Robinson is miscast as an Italian, he still gives his customary fine performance, and Conte and Hayward make an arresting couple. Luthor Adler almost walks off with the movie with his quietly ferocious portrayal of deceptively steel-hard Joe. Hope Emerson (Peter Gunn) is fun in a small role as Maria's termagant mother, trading verbal and nearly physical blows with Robinson, whom she towers over.
Verdict: Has quite a few memorable and powerful sequences. ***.