Still a large menacing presence in spite of dropping 100 pounds in a matter of months (then dropping dead at 30), Laird Cregar wasn’t happy when 20th/Fox chief Darryl Zanuck remade his hand-picked project into a second helping of THE LODGER/’44, his star breakthrough as Jack-the-Ripper, also with director John Brahm & scripter Barré Lyndon. But hard to argue when a film improves on earlier success; scarier, tighter, more honest in storytelling, with an outline that draws on Stevenson’s JEKYLL AND HYDE the way LODGER did from Wilde’s DORIAN GRAY. And what a clever reenforcement of Stevenson’s personality split by having Cregar’s composer torn between classical composition with good girl Faye Marlowe and popular song for sinful Linda Darnell. Brilliant in execution and concept, with a faultless supporting cast and a striking physical production that climaxes in the concerto premiere with Brahm’s visual orchestration a match for the stunningly effective (and just plain stunning) Bernard Herrmann score, ending the film with the solo piano chords of his ‘Concerto Macabre.’ Unmissable.
SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Vincent Price more or less took over the casting vacuum left by Cregar’s death. Less arch than Price, Cregar’s more a physical match to the younger Raymond Burr. (Were those guys ever young?)
DOUBLE-BILL: For something approaching Brahm’s success in the final concerto set piece, try Vincente Minnelli’s Waltz Sequence to Miklós Rózsa’s soaring, off-kilter music in MADAME BOVARY/’49 or Abel Gance’s hypnotic piano recital in THE TENTH SYMPHONY/’18. That one’s silent, of course, but put on something manic & Schumannesque.