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Saturday, December 28, 2013

A BLUEPRINT FOR MURDER (1953)

Most of writer/director Andrew Stone’s work, even the pics released by the major studios, play like B+ indies. There’s a awkward homemade quality in the overall look, as well as in the acting, even from Hollywood vets. Call the result ‘heightened flatness.’ Evolving methods in film production allowed Stone to cut his costs by shooting in real locations, but any gains from quasi-documentary techniques just clashed all the more strongly against cheap studio sets. Add in a tendency to telegraph action & motivation and it’s no wonder to find his characters looking a tad slow on the uptake. That’s certainly the case here, yet it paradoxically adds an intriguing ‘off’ tone to an otherwise obvious murder case that sees doting uncle Joseph Cotten numbly resisting any suggestion that sister-in-law Jean Peters might be thinking of poisoning his adorable niece & nephew. Egged on to think the worst by family friends Gary Merrill & Catherine McLeod, Cotten does a full reverse, only to be held in check by the cops, the D.A. and a judge who all let him know that poisoning is a tough charge to prove. Ploughing ahead, Stone builds some real cumulative creepiness with dogged tread and a fresh bottle of poison, but it's not quite enough.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: Peters & Cotten spent a lot of ‘53 working thru murder angles. Try them in Henry Hathaway’s excellent, TechniColored fever-dream, NIAGARA/’53, with Marilyn Monroe in good early form.

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