For Reel

Cause for Alarm! (1951)
July 26, 2015, 3:17 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Tay Garnett
3.5 Stars
Cause for Alarm!Towards the end of Loretta Young’s long career in film (she would soon be transitioning to roles on television), she starred in this small-scale thriller that displaces film noir elements from the expected urban setting into an idealized vision of suburbia. She plays a woman who is oblivious to the fact that her invalid husband (Barry Sullivan) has slowly been going mad, and in her absence he’s been theorizing that she and an old army friend (Bruce Cowling) are plotting to kill him. Intercepting a letter that would damn her becomes the central focus of the plot, and as with the best work of Hitchcock the premise turns something completely ordinary into the object of tension and dread. Similarly, maintaining a performance as a happy housewife is the concern of much of the tension, with voiceover narration discussing Young’s fear of being mistaken by her neighbors or the post office superintendent as anything but an average, well-mannered woman. Young is quite good in a slowly unraveling performance as the film progresses, and cinematographer Joseph Ruttenberg contributes some interesting play in the contrast between the genre and setting (there is a chilling use of simple bedroom mirrors in one particular scene).

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