Wednesday, January 17, 2007

VICKI (20th Century Fox 1953) Fox Home Video

The tag line for Harry Horner’s Vicki (1953) reads like pure soap opera – “everything a man could ever want” and living her life “the way no woman should!” Vicki is an abysmal attempt to revisit the well a second time by remaking Fox’s I Wake Up Screaming (1941). While the original can hardly be considered high art, it is superior in all aspects to this uninspired reincarnation. As a thriller, Vicki is virtually suspense free, causing me to ask my proverbial question about remakes in general – ‘Why?!?’

On this occasion, Vicki is played by Jean Peters – working against type as the good girl gone bad. Our story opens with Vicki’s lifeless body being wheeled out of a hotel room with toe tag affixed. Unfortunately, all that director Horner can think to do after this rather startling debut is to draw an immediate parallel between his flick and Otto Preminger's exemplary Laura (1944) with a painful rip-off opening credit sequence that really has nothing to do with anything.

From here, we move in on the prerequisite roster of suspects; Elliot Reid as Steve Christopher – a promotions guy who’s too fresh as a daisy and wet behind the ears to be believable as the womanizing guy with his eye on Vicki, and, Vicki’s sister, Jill Lynn, played by the congenial, Jeanne Crain, a far more convincingly frank gal than Betty Grable's Jill was in the original movie.

Dwight Taylor and Leo Townsend's screenplay is pure regurgitation, but even if one had two stomachs like a cow its pretty hard to keep down. On a dare, Steve introduces Vicki to New York society, including ham actor Robin Ray (Alexander D’Arcy) and press agent Larry Evans (Max Showalter). Vicki’s up to her old tricks though, finagling a film deal that will benefit her while making the rest of the cast look like chumps.

On this outing police inspector Ed Cornell is played as pure psychopath on the verge of a nervous breakdown by the craggy and very crabby Richard Boone. Cornell yells, intimidates and attacks his witnesses. He’s really a vial guy and one that gets away with far more than the law ought to allow. Soon-to-be-TV producer Aaron Spelling plays Harry Williams, the sycophant hotel clerk who likes to ogle starlets with a streak of ennui for Elijah Cook Jr.

For the most part Vicki plays like a poor cousin to I Wake Up Screaming. The sets and costumes are boring, as is Milton Krasner's cinematography - looking more like a vintage TV episode than a devastatingly dark film noir. If anything, the remake is even less suspenseful than its predecessor; the conclusion more the inevitable tack-on than resolution.

One of the worst movies in Fox's Film Noir series gets one of the best looking DVD transfers. The B&W image is quite stunning. Good solid blacks, pristine whites, accurately represented film grain and fine details nicely realized throughout. Nothing to complain about here!  As with other films from Fox, the mono audio gets a re-channeled stereo upgrade. Extras on Vicki include a rather boring audio commentary by Foster Hirsch – who basically goes through the duration reiterating what a dull and uninspired remake this is - stills galleries and the film’s theatrical trailer.

FILM RATING (out of 5 - 5 being the best)



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