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Friday, January 25, 2013

THE VERDICT (1946)

Don Siegel moved up from the Warners montage department to director on this neatly plotted whodunit, a Victorian-set programmer with plenty of fog to hide any inappropriate street sets. And it’s good fun until it loses its footing in a rushed third act. Sydney Greenstreet gets a rare lead as the Scotland Yard superintendent who’s duped by a rival (George Coulouris) and winds up sending an innocent man to the gallows. But when a new, unsolvable murder stumps his replacement, Greenstreet is pulled out of forced retirement to help on the new investigation, much to the amusement of his artist friend, Peter Lorre who lives in the same house as the murder victim and may even be the killer. With its modest budget, there’s less scenery than scenery-chewing, Siegel wisely lets his all-supporting cast munch away. Too bad he can’t so easily finesse the big reveal at the end. Especially, after Jack Warner forced him to shoot some ‘improvements’ that give up the culprit two reels earlier than originally planned.

DOUBLE-BILL: Lorre & Greenstreet are always a treat to watch together, and even better in Jean Negulesco’s THREE STRANGERS/’46 released just before this one.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Composer Frederick Hollander comes up with a Music Hall number that sounds a bit out of place here, but just right for his regular muse, Marlene Dietrich.

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