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Friday, January 7, 2011

JEOPARDY (1953)

Barbara Stanwyck stars in this modest thriller about a California couple on a fishing trip with their young son way down south in Baja Mexico. When a collapsing pier pins her husband’s leg to a concrete pile just as the tide starts coming in, Stanwyck swallows her panic and drives off to find help.* But the guy she finds, a strong, handsome young American type, turns out to be an escaped prisoner with a violent streak and the law on his tail. John Sturges was one of the few helmers @ M-G-M who actually liked making smaller films like this (even his breakthru pic, BAD DAY AT BLACK ROCK/’55 runs a mere 81 minutes) and he neatly divides this even shorter storyline in two: 35 minutes with the little family/35 minutes on the run. It’s standard stuff, but just odd enough to hold your attention. What a neurotic trio this little family is. Barry Sullivan, Stanwyck & their kid, Lee Aaker, seem like strangers, physically uncomfortable with each other. Stanwyck has far more chemistry with Ralph Meeker’s smiling menace. And he has a ball with the part, stuffing soda crackers in his mouth so he sounds like Brando, cradling Stanwyck ‘just so’ in his arms, pulling off an improvised engineering feat to rescue Sullivan from the tide. It’s a wonder Stanwyck doesn’t run off with the guy. It’s worth a look, especially with some dilly production gloss that belie the tight budget; a snazzy Dimitri Tiomkin score and a swan song credit from one of the great Paramount lensers, Victor Milner.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: *If they made this today, the whole family would start amputating Dad’s leg!

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