Sunday, September 8, 2013


Universal Pictures, 79m 26s

Especially when there is an opportunity for wrongdoing to go unnoticed, people tend to make immoral decisions. This is probably generally true in the real world, and particularly true in the film noir. At least in the noir universe, poor judgment calls of the past almost always have a way of catching up with people.
A dog displays more loyalty than a hit-and-run driver in THE PRICE OF FEAR

In a plot structure that has served Hollywood well, fate brings characters who don't know each other together. Dave Barrett (TARZAN veteran Lex Barker) learns he suddenly has a new business partner in known gangster Frankie Edare (Warren Stevens, THE BAREFOOT CONTESSA, FORBIDDEN PLANET). After threatening the former partner (Tim Sullivan) who sold out, Barrett finds himself being followed. Meanwhile, after living it up at the Domino Club, successful investment counselor Jessica Warren (Merle Oberon, WUTHERING HEIGHTS, BERLIN EXPRESS) mows down a man (Ken Terrell) with her convertible. In a rather unlikely coincidence, Barrett becomes the hit-and-run suspect after he opportunistically borrows Warren's car. If that series of events were not problematic enough, the ex-partner Barrett threatened earlier that night is shot to death. Barrett’s friend Pete Carroll (Charles Drake, HARVEY, WINCHESTER '73) is on the case, but Barrett does some investigating of his own that draws him closer to Warren.

Directed by Abner Biberman, who would go on to direct episodes of numerous television shows including THE TWILIGHT ZONE, THE VIRGINIAN, and IRONSIDE, this is a "wrong man" style film noir, with the protagonist forced to untangle himself from a network of confusing elements. Money or alcohol is the driving force behind all issues that arise; in one of the truest noir moments, a woman (Mary Field) admits that the right amount of money more than makes up for the loss of her recently departed husband (Stafford Repp). Irving Glassberg's cinematography favors low and sometimes oblique camera angles that are commonplace in noir visuals, and sometimes objects in the frame are positioned to appear larger or more significant than the protagonists. The good woman Nina Ferranti (Gia Scala) is distinguished visually from the evil Warren woman by their difference in necklines.
A telephone takes on added significance in THE PRICE OF FEAR

Wooden performances by the two leads detract from an otherwise enjoyable, well-paced film. The source material is in outstanding condition; I did not notice a single flaw. It is part of the Women in Danger:  1950s Thrillers 4-disc DVD set available at

No comments:

Post a Comment