For Reel

Undercurrent (1946)
July 16, 2012, 9:55 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Vincente Minnelli

For a picture so regrettably miscast and directed by a man not particularly well suited for the job, Undercurrent manages to provide some pleasures, even if it is a considerable step below George Cukor’s similar gothic romance, Gaslight. Katharine Hepburn plays a timid woman who, shortly after marrying her wealthy husband, finds that he has a dark history that might threaten not only the relationship, but her life. Cast as the husband is Robert Taylor, who was more typically seen in generic hero roles, and as his brother is Robert Mitchum, playing sensitive rather than the expected brooding and blunt. Strangest of all is Vincente Minelli as director, an unusual choice for a film noir, but one that isn’t a total failure – the way that he and famed cinematographer Karl Freund manipulate light in the husband-wife confrontations is suitably menacing. The backdrop of World War II provides some intrigue – Mitchum is a veteran, and Taylor is revealed to have stolen the plans for an explosive device that a Nazi-hating German worker had been developing. These allegiances not only serve to create a greater contrast between the brothers, but it puts an emphasis on the importance of its setting – like so many post-war films, Minnelli deals with domestic instability and homes wrecked by men with haunted pasts, which were fairly new trends to American cinema in the 1940s.

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