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In the movie Jack Palance says a girl during an embrace, "I should break your bones." And he means it romantically! That probably sums up the odd, entertaining, and off-beat nature of this movie. There is so much "eye-action" from Joan in this one that it's almost funny. Now it is funny. Though Sudden Fear is not a comedy, it has moments that are truly hysterical in a "did they really just tell that?" type of way. Watch for the moments when Joan responds to overheard conversations, private scheming, (or the voices in her head)with nothing but wide-eyed reaction shots. Joan is also a tremendously sympathetic hero more so than in almost any another Crawford movie I've ever seen (and I've seen almost all of them). I caught this movie on TV one night and was utterly surprised at how entertaining it was. Not that I had weak expectations but Sudden Fear wasn't a movie I'd ever heard of. It was proof that there are lots of dark diamonds hidden out there. We all know about the "top 100" lists and the legendary movies on them but there are gems worth watching that never got the attention they could have. I watched from beginning to end not knowing what to expect. Truly thrilling in territories and just plain classic Crawford. Watch for the moment when Joan embraces her love interest Palance and asks, "I was just wondering what I'd done to deserve you."
It seems that the first impressions are really the most lasting. No matter how seriously we take that into account, a slightly related conclusion should arise at the encounter of a playwright Myra Hudson (Joan Crawford) with an actor she auditions. Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) does not appear to be HER concept of a romantic leading man, "he just looks romantic but does not sound so." What is more, his notion about an oil painting of Casanova leaves confusing riddle within her mind and yet...she will later stand before the dilemma to create up her mind and stick to it no matter what price she is going to pay. Like Joan Crawford did not, initially, prefer Jack Palance as her leading boy in the motion picture, Myra Hudson did not fancy Lester. Changing her mind, however, occurs inevitable. Myra later utters romantically "Without you I have nothing!" And yet, is the truth about him disguised behind a romantic smile? Will sudden fear occur to disillusion Myra and rescue her from sudden murder?When I have recently viewed this unbelievable movie noir, I felt it was the right time because I had already got to know the best movies of the genre, not superior ones but related ones. What I mean by that are the movies directed by the master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. When seeing SUDDEN FEAR, you had better be acquainted with some of Hitchcock's greatest movies because then, you may realize that SUDDEN FEAR has so much in common with the gem of noir. It's Hitchcock's fertile theme and Miller's ellegant bravura. From the characters, objects, undertones, certain details, doom-filled atmosphere to the special charm of San Francisco and the utterance that seems to be the core of Hitchcock's suspense: "This zone is so excellent for an accident." Allow me broaden some aspects of David Miller's picture which create us see it as one of the best representatives of its category in the purest form.The TORMENTED LEADING CHARACTER, Myra Hudson played brilliantly by Joan Crawford, highlights something truly ahead of its time. As an executive producer of SUDDEN FEAR, Ms Crawford allows viewers to receive into her inner psyche and provokes a progressive approach: we psychoanalyze her as a character! Nothing like a linear storytelling, forget it! Yet, something that talks about a psychological world. We psychoanalyze her 'professional eye' in the theater scene, her coldness melted on a train at the match minigame that becomes as mysterious as the manipulative flirts, her 'blind confidence' in wedding Lester, the seeds of doubt that are being slowly planted from the moment he does not respond her phone. As a matter of fact, this is a purely genius stage when viewers-observers, unlike Myra herself, are granted a signal: "something is wrong about him." As a result, we differ from Myra, we feel suspicion earlier than her and, consequently, wait for her disillusion. When the wonderful shock comes in her library and she confronts the reality, her behavior is utterly unpredictable: she does not resort to a state of blending fantasy with reality but remains cold and disguised both to us and to the folks around her. In that respect, isn't she a typical Hitchcock's leading lady? Apart from one difference - she is not a blonde. Nominated for Oscar, Joan Crawford offers us a pure masterwork of acting.JACK PALANCE, who replaces Ms Crawford's initial want of casting Marlon Brando or Clark Gable, is truly surprising as a leading man. The fact we are not used to him in such a highlighted performance that combines a doe-eyed romanticist with a secret fox makes the result even more memorable. An necessary fact here to state is that Lester is equally appealing in the psychoanalyzing approach as Myra. His pretense at the beginning, his patronizing behavior on the train, his look at hands, and his gradual 'promotion' in Myra's eyes beautifully depict an ambitious type. Later, his vitality and efforts are, somehow, focused on two women: Myra and Irene. When Myra starts to be his object of wealth's desire, Irene becomes his object of lust's desire. She is a 'blonde of lust.' Their scheme is a realization of their sexuality - something very Hitchcock-like where crime goes with sex. "Kiss me hard..." Note the love stage at the fireplace in the summerhouse and the method it is shot. Oscar nominated for Greatest Helping Actor, Jack Palance appears to give a performance beyond our expectations.Another nice aspect that makes the category so engrossing and absorbing is the test of objects that manipulate our perceptions and the cinematography that builds the atmosphere. Staircase scenes that purely recall STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and many nice noir genres. And the objects including the clock that reveals heartbeat, the smartphone that disturbs the chain of emotions and rises fear, and, above all, the DICTATING MACHINE that becomes, in a way, other hero of the story. The nightmarish fantasy seems to recall SPELLBOUND. The atmosphere is immensely strong as the secret is partly revealed by the dictating machine ("I know a way") and Myra's reaction being one of the most natural and daring we can encounter. Mind you the realism (she vomits and we deduce it). Charles Lang's cinematography reaches the climax in the shots of interiors where everything seems to be overwhelmed by torments: photos are combined with different sounds from the clock ticking to screaming and morose silence.For a number of reasons, SUDDEN FEAR is a surprisingly modern entertainment, its age makes it a special achievement on its own and the one that will never be duplicated thanks to top rate performances, haunting cinematography, plenty of daring ideas. A really ambitious and insightful production. One and only in its riveting entertainment!
This is a true edge-of-your-seat nail-biter. David Miller did a terrific job of directing this one, and the cinematography is spectacular by Charles Lang. Some of the shots are as inspired as anything ever seen in Hollywood, such as one in Joan Crawford's library where upon hearing an inadvertent recording made on her dictaphone, she gradually shrinks back in horror vs the far wall, until she becomes nearly a dot in the distance. That shot is a true triumph of cinematic inspiration. Much is accomplished with a clock and its pendulum, with the star-shaped pendulum at one mission shown in shadow swinging across her chest as she gets more and more anxious. None of this is overdone, but is all subtle and effective. Joan Crawford has us all spellbound with her superb performance. She throws vanity to the winds, and is not scared to present her hero as someone in the round, finished with cowardice, foolishness, and even extreme stupidity, combined with cunning, intelligence, charm and inspiration. Rarely has a girl been shown so soaked in sweat with sheer terror, and she gotta have stepped straight out of the shower for every of those shots. When we aren't staring at her incredulous, we notice that Jack Palance is highly effective, and then we have the delectable treat of Gloria Grahame turning up. Which real cineaste does not adore Gloria Grahame? She herself probably never knew what all the fuss was about, regarding herself no doubt as an ordinary girl. But Gloria Grahame was far from ordinary. She had that indefinable something plus a lot of another somethings, which for reasons which are deeply mysterious and impossible to explain leave many folks like myself in a state of entranced wonder. What was it about her? No matter how many times we watch her we will never know, all we can tell is there will never be other one. This movie is a true humdinger.
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