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Saturday, December 5, 2009

TENSION (1949)

With his small frame & fine features, Richard Basehart is just right as a Milquetoast husband who plots a ‘perfect murder’ for the burly lover who’s taken his wife. Then again, since the wife is Audrey Totter, the supreme sultry slattern of Grade B noirs, you might think he’d be grateful. Sure enough, just when he’s about to kill the guy, he sees the light. But this is film noir, so the guy turns up dead anyway and now Basehart’s clever plan leads the cops right back to him. It’s a neat set-up for classic noir, but M-G-M was the wrong studio for such nasty doings so we get corny narrative hints from the investigating cop (Barry Sullivan) and even Cyd Charisse, in a rare non-musical role, loyal & loving as the good girl. At least, megger John Berry moves things along and there’s a jazzy score from a 20 yr old Andre Previn, but you can make a better noir in your head as you watch this one. (How ‘bout we start the film when the cops arrest Basehart and then go to flashback. Hey, what’s a noir without a flashback?) Try CRIME WAVE/’54 to see how much more you can get out of this sort of thing.

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