Tuesday, July 3, 2012

220. The Reckless Moment (1949)

Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Max Ophuls
Written By: Mel Dinelli, Henry Garson
Main Cast: Joan Bennett, James Mason, Geraldine Page, Henry O'Neill, Shepperd Strudwick


Moving right along, we come back to the 1940s and my first offering from classic director Max Ophuls and his 1949 Hollywood film, "The Reckless Moment".

The film begins by introducing Lucia Harper (Bennett) and retelling a story that happened about a week before Christmas, when, one morning, without telling her family, she drives the car into Los Angeles to meet with a man. The man is Ted Darby (Strudwick) and he's been seeing Mrs. Harper's daughter, Bea (Page). The trouble is that Lucia doesn't want him seeing her daughter any longer, because she isn't even eighteen yet and he's much older. Mr. Darby says that if Lucia makes it worth his while, monetarily, he'll leave Bea alone. Lucia doesn't pay him, citing that his statement alone would be enough to turn off Bea. Lucia returns home and shares the information with Bea, who doesn't believe her. Later that night, Bea sneaks out of the house to meet with Ted and ask him if he really asked for money in exchange for never seeing her again. He admits that he did and in a fit of rage, Bea knocks him in the head with a flashlight, spilling him over a railing, accidentally murdering him. Bea doesn't realize that he fell or that he died, as she runs back into the house, broken-hearted. The next morning, Lucia discovers the body of Ted and confronts Bea about it, who knows nothing. Lucia sinks the body into the river, with an anchor tied to his foot and hopes that it will be the end of her nightmare. The following day the paper's are reporting that a murder has taken place and that night, Lucia finds a man in her home, requesting $5000 in exchange for love letters that Bea wrote to Ted.


Since I really spilled my guts about the Darren Aronofsky films, I think we'll keep this one short & sweet. "The Reckless Moment" was a fine film-noir. It wasn't the best film-noir I've seen this 100, but it wasn't the worst either. The plot is very simply and isn't stretched far, seeing as how the running time is kept under ninety minutes. The cast was good enough, with Joan Bennett and James Mason handing in satisfactory performances. I really like Mason and really wish I could find a knockout film starring him; perhaps "Lolita" will be that film. Anyway, my main problems with this film were the odd twists that the plot took. After Mason's character shows up, requesting money in exchange for the love letters, his character seems to go a little loopy, acting far too nice for the villain in a film-noir. He continues sending niceties toward Lucia, until he eventually falls in love with her. However, she's happily married, with a home in the L.A. suburbs and two kids. Nothing is ever made of his budding love interest in her and by the end, I was left scratching my head, wondering what the motivations of this character were supposed to be. Also, the film has a problem heightening the suspense. This film could've been chock full of suspense, but everything is kept contained and nothing ever gets far too out of hand for these characters. After the set-up in the beginning, Lucia is left to deal with Mason's character and then a man named Nagel, whom we never really find out much about and he's left to be this mystery bad-ass. It's good, but it's not so good that it needed to be included in THE BOOK. 'Nuff said.

RATING: 6.5/10  I'm pretty sure Max Ophuls has three more films in THE BOOK, so here's hoping the scripts get a little better and the characters are more fleshed out.


July 3, 2012  6:10pm

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