Friday, January 26, 2007

WHIRLPOOL (20th Century Fox 1949) Fox Home Video

Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool (1949) is a contrived bit of film noir fluff and nonsense that reunites the director with Gene Tierney – the star of his formidably entertaining, Laura (1944). On this occasion, Ms. Tierney is Ann, the wife of respected psychoanalyst, Dr. William Sutton (Richard Conte). Theirs is a seemingly enviable marriage, one marred by Ann’s kleptomania. When Ann is caught trying to steal a broach from a department store she fears her secret life will be exposed.

Enter David Korvo (Jose Ferrer) a spurious hypnotist who claims he can cure Ann of her condition. At a party, Ann is warned by wealthy middle-aged Theresa Randolf (Barbara O’Neil) that Korvo is a hack interested in her only for extortion. A confrontation ensues and later that evening Ann arrives in a hypnotic trance to discover that Randolf has been strangled.

From here the plot only gets more inarticulate and confusing. Preminger spends far too much time setting up doubt in the good doctor’s mind that his wife is guilty of murder. He jettisons suspicion from Korvo by placing him in a hospital bed, thereby leaving him to taunt police and William. The ending – best kept a secret - is contrived and cliché ridden. Tierney is problematically cast – cool, unsympathetic, static and in short, unconvincing. There’s no chemistry, either between she and Conte or she and Ferrer that might have kept audiences guessing.

Fox’s DVD transfer is at least something to cheer over. The gray scale has been impeccably rendered. Save a few minor instances where grain briefly intrudes, the mastering effort is clean and exceptionally contrasted. Whites are clean. Blacks are deep and velvety. The audio is mono (with an alternative rechanneled stereo mix). The only extra is an audio commentary. It makes much more of the film than is actually necessary.

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



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