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Thursday, March 3, 2011

PUSHOVER (1954)

The double-helix plot is the best part of this cleverly worked up suspenser. Fred MacMurray’s a cop who not only runs a stakeout on bank robber moll Kim Novak, he’s also dating her. It’s all part of a police scam to recover the loot when her boyfriend comes back to town. But the plan goes awry when Kim ‘makes’ Fred as a cop and convinces him to steal the cash for the two of them. But there are complications, in particular, MacMurray’s police partner at the stakeout, Phil Carey. He’s a straight-arrow sort, though not averse to turning his binoculars toward the apartment just to the right of Novak’s where Dorothy Malone lives. Malone’s still a brunette here and a real sweetie-pie who becomes inadvertently involved in all the deceptions. She all but steals the pic. Richard Quine, who's mostly remembered for helming comedies, does good work here, neatly organizing all the moving pieces, and tackling the logistical nightmare of a tricky third act with multiple POVs without breaking a sweat. Yet, the film doesn’t quite come off. The strong resemblances to DOUBLE INDEMNITY/’44 and to the just released REAR WINDOW do it no favors. But the main problem comes from the lack of heat (or even rapport) between Novak & MacMurray. We can’t buy into his actions unless we feel the big passion between these two. And it just isn’t there. In fact, Novak is so vacuous in her debut, there’s pretty much no there there. And the painfully flat score from Arthur Morton is like a nail in the coffin.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: John Badham's STAKEOUT, a big hit in '87 with Richard Dreyfuss, Emilio Estevez & Madeleine Stowe, is all but forgotten. See if it holds up & report back.

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