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Friday, December 5, 2014


A surging neurotic edge runs under this sudsy woman’s vehicle and helps make up for the compromises in story, production & execution. Barbara Stanwyck stars as a world-famous concert pianist with a touch of TB to clear up. Whisked to a lux mountain sanatorium, she promptly falls for strict but caring doctor David Niven; all the new patients do. But when he keeps his distance, she rebels against her treatment, dashing off with hot-to-trot race car driver Richard Conte. He’s unaware of her disease; she’s unaware of just how ill she is; Niven's unaware he's holding back as he’s never fallen so hard. Such a tangle! Taken from what presumably is a tougher short story by Erich Maria Remarque, this ain’t no MAGIC MOUNTAIN. But director André de Toth, working nicely with vet Stanwyck lenser Victor Milner, keeps things moving and intriguingly uncomfortable when he’s not fighting against his modest indie budget and some stiff soundstage Alpine exteriors. Or rather, he does until Babs runs away from her diminishing options only to wind up first threatened, then rescued, by smoldering croupier Gilbert Roland. His frank sexual charge and instant chemistry against Stanwyck obliterate whatever is supposed to be going on with the Niven/Conte rivalry. All accomplished in about four minutes of screen time.*

DOUBLE-BILL: *The heat wafting off Babs & Roland was repurposed as part of the complicated backstory in THE FURIES/’50.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Composer Miklós Rózsa had sanatorium music cues to spare after SPELLBOUND/’45. But what he really wants is to write one of those movie mini-concertos for Stanwyck to play over the credits. (Apparently dubbed by Ania Dorfmann.) Alas, not even Rózsa can work up another ‘Warsaw Concerto’ (the faux Rachmaninoff written by Richard Addinsell for DANGEROUS MOONLIGHT/’41) in a mere 45 seconds.

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