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

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Ida Lupino
JENNIFER (1953). Director: Joel Newton.

In this strange suspense film, Agnes Langsley (Ida Lupino) gets a job as caretaker at an abandoned estate because, for some reason, she wants to be alone. In spite of this she meets and keeps company with Jim Hollis (Howard Duff), who owns the general store in the town near the estate. When Agnes learns that the last caretaker, a young woman named Jennifer who was the cousin of the house's current owner, simply vanished one afternoon, she's intrigued enough to investigate, but seems more obsessed than merely curious. There are vague hints of the supernatural or something weird going on, especially in the ending, but nothing much is made of it. One supposes this is why Lupino plays the role like she's compelled for some reason to seek out the truth about Jennifer -- it's a strange performance, frankly, but not a bad one -- and the mystery of who Agnes is and why she's buried herself away is never quite resolved. (There's also the fact that Agnes never actually seems to do anything in her role as caretaker.) One could argue that the mystery over Jennifer isn't, either. Still, this is fairly absorbing, not badly acted, and has some creepy sequences, such as a search for Jennifer's body underground. The movie does get across the impression that there's something just out of sight, and the obtuse conclusion is borderline chilling. Robert Nichols plays Hollis' clerk, Orin, Mary Shipp is Agnes' employer, Lorna, and singer Matt Dennis plays himself in a lounge sequence. He sings and also composed the memorable tune, "Angel Eyes." James Wong Howe was the director of photography and also co-directed The Invisible Avenger. Lupino [The Bigamist] and Duff [Spaceways] got married two years before this film was made, and didn't divorce until 1984.

Verdict: Oddly compelling sort of mystery. **1/2 out of 4.

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