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

Thursday, June 16, 2016


THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL (1951). Director: Robert Wise.

Hoping to have a chance at a new life in America, a woman who calls herself Karin (Valentina Cortese) has taken the identity of a deceased lady whom she befriended in a concentration camp. The real Karin has not seen her little boy, Chris (Gordon Gebert), in many years, and the false Karin winds up married to his guardian, Alan Spender (Richard Basehart), and playing mother to the child. The fourth member of the San Francisco household is the housekeeper and nanny, Margaret (Fay Baker), who seems to resent the other woman's intrusion. Taking another person's identity always has bad consequences in movies -- think No Man of Her Own -- and House on Telegraph Hill is no exception, as Karin finds herself embroiled in sinister events and terrified that someone is out to kill her -- or the boy. The best scene in the movie has Karin driving to the store when her brakes fail. Cortese [Thieves' Highway] is fine, as is William Lundigan as a major who takes an interest in Karin, but Richard Basehart [Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea] underplays way too much in key sequences, and the climactic scenes don't quite work, in part because of this. Arguably Baker gives the most vivid performance in this, even if she also seems a bit perfunctory at important moments. This is not one of Robert Wise's more memorable directorial jobs. Little Gordon Gebert gave a superb performance in Chicago Calling that same year, and is charming in this.

Verdict: Not quite satisfying suspense film. **1/2.


angelman66 said...

Robert Wise was a prolific director, but quite uneven--some of his films are masterpieces, others so forgettable....

William said...

I couldn't have said it better. I think he's one of those who has to be very inspired by whatever he's working on.