Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|I Wake Up Screaming |
Fox Film Noir
Actors: Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Laird Cregar, William Gargan
Genres: Indie & Art House, Drama, Mystery & Suspense
A great surprise ending marks this film noir classic, filled with taut suspense. Starring Betty Grable in a change-of-pace role.
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Entertaining Murder Mystery & Impressive Early Example of No
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 06/30/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""I Wake Up Screaming" was the first film noir made at 20th Century Fox. Its greatest distinction is its visual style whose low-key lighting and dark shadows would become archetypal of film noir after World War II. Cinematographer Edward Cronjager created a striking early example of "noir" lighting -what John Alton appropriately called "mystery lighting"- in this film made in 1941, before the United States entered the War. The story is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen Fisher, adapted for the screen by Dwight Taylor, who moved the action to New York, gave it a flashback structure, and turned it into one of those hybrids so common in pre-War Hollywood that combines multiple genres: Mystery, romance, musical (the singing scene was cut), comedy, suspense, and psychological drama. But the suspense does dominate.
When model and aspiring actress Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis) is murdered, the police are quick to blame Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), a fight promoter who met Vicky when she was a waitress, introduced her to all the right people, and managed her ascent to glamour girl -until she left him for Hollywood. Vicky's down-to-earth sister Jill (Betty Grable) disapproved of her career choice but doesn't want to believe Frankie responsible for her death. The Assistant District Attorney thinks early on that the creepy switchboard operator (Elisha Cook, Jr.) at the Lynns' apartment building is the killer, but sadistic police detective Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar) won't let up on Frankie, constantly harassing and threatening him, leaving Frankie little choice but to find the killer himself.
"I Wake Up Screaming" opens with an eyecatching credit sequence of names in lights sprawled across a dark cityscape. That got my attention. Then we move on to an interrogation room at the police station. Frankie Christopher is harshly lit with one lamp, surrounded by police officers in the shadows. Gorgeous, dramatic, low-key lighting. The faces of some characters, even Frankie, are sometimes completely blacked out. I don't know if that is due to a film with limited tonal range or if it's deliberate. But it's daring. Everywhere we go in the station house, there are bars and shadows. The implication that the characters are trapped as if in a cage is overwhelming. The police station is like a template for film noir aesthetic. This really surprised me in such an early film, but it's fabulous.
This was Betty Grable's first non-musical role. She's all sweetness and goodness, but she is also level-headed, practical, and brave in the mold of a film noir helper-heroine. Unfortunately, every time she appears on screen we hear "Somewhere Over the Rainbow", which eventually drove me a little nuts. Victor Mature makes a strong and appealing protagonist. But the stand-out performance comes from Laird Cregar as the very creepy, obsessed police detective Cornell. He's truly unsettling and one of the most memorable noir villains. The dialogue isn't hard-boiled except for a few lines delivered by Vicky. But "I Wake Up Screaming" is a superb example of the film noir style as it was entering Hollywood's visual vocabulary.
The DVD (20th Century Fox 2006): A few scenes show some white specks and lines, but this print is generally good. Sound is good. Bonus features: A deleted scene called "Daddy" (4 min), in which Betty Grable sings. This doesn't fit the tone of the movie well, so it was best left out. "Hot Spot" (text) is a brief account of the film's title change from "I Wake Up Screaming" to "Hot Spot" and back again. We can watch the opening credits for the film with the "Hot Spot" title (1 min). There are 3 "Still Galleries": A Poster Gallery (3 posters), a Production Stills Gallery of behind-the-scenes photos (8), and a Unit Photography Gallery of publicity stills (38 photos). It's interesting to note that scenes are much more brightly lit in the publicity stills than in the movie itself. There is a theatrical trailer (2 min). Film noir historian Eddie Muller delivers a good, nearly constant audio commentary. He compares the screenplay to Steven Fisher's novel, provides background information for many of the creative crew and actors, discusses the noir visual style and the juxtaposition of light and dark thematic elements in the film. Muller speaks a lot about the people involved in the film, as always. Subtitles for the film are available in English and Spanish."
I Wake Up Screaming is a Top-Notch Noir Thriller!
John Malanga | Pacifica, CA United States | 03/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I Wake Up Screaming (1941) is an excellent, atmospheric, pre - WWII Film Noir classic with Betty Grable, Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Laird Cregar and Elisha Cook, Jr. This under-rated film is a must for lover's of the genre. The cast is excellent, including Betty Grable who is best known for her Fox musicals. Laird Cregar is memorable in one of his best rolls of his short career, giving a complex and disturbing performance. The ending is a real chiller. Check it out. You won't be disappointed. I rate this film up there with my other Film Noir favorites: Laura, Gilda, Double Indemnity, Out Of The Past, Woman In The Window and Murder My Sweet...footnote: The original title was Hot Spot, but Zanuck had it changed because as the film was to be released, USA entered WWII and he feared audiences might think it was a war movie. Fox re-made this film in 1953 as Vicki with Jeanne Crain and Jean Peters in the lead roles. However, Richard Boone's performance does not have the complexity and depth that Cregar brings to the role.
"I'll follow you into your grave. I'll write my name on your
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 07/11/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The 1941 film I Wake Up Screaming reportedly set the standard for this type of noir thriller and the good news is that it gets everything right. Incorporating a perfect blend of noir elements and emphasizing the flashback story, the atmospheric lighting, and, most of all, the inherent moral ambiguities of the main protagonists, I Wake Up Screaming is a riveting suspense thriller from beginning to end.
The movie begins with as well-known New York sports promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) is hauled down to the New York City police headquarters, a prime suspect in the murder of beautiful café waitress Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis) who Frankie has since helped become a flourishing model and prospective actress.
Of course, Frankie denies having anything to do with the crime but the massive detective squad commander Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar) is totally convinced if his guilt. Meanwhile, in the adjoining room, Vicky's sister Jill (Betty Grable) is also being questioned. She recently came to New York to stay with Vicky as a type of live-in maid and she was the first person to discover the body and saw Frankie standing over it.
As both Jill and Frankie recount their stories - in brilliantly edited flashbacks - we are introduced to a number of supporting suspects: There's a manipulative and self-serving journalist Larry Evans (Allyn Joslyn), aging actor Robin Ray (Alan Mowbray), and the creepy, sinister switchboard operator William Harrison (Elisha Cook Jr.) who works in Vicky's hotel and who packs Jill's luggage up without being asked.
Jill and Frankie are soon released. Jill just wants to forget the whole thing and move on, but Frankie pursues Jill, all the while maintaining his innocence. The two are drawn together in the course of trying to sort out their lives and the murder of Vicky, and Jill's eventual recognition that Frankie is capable of truly loving a woman, and not just exploiting her. The couple soon realizes that Cornell - who is unremittingly in hunt of his prey - must be framing Frankie for the murder. But did Frankie really murder Vicky and if he didn't, who did?
The plot takes lots of mysterious twists and turns and the noose seems to tighten around Frankie, as the anecdotal proof seems to pile up. Jill begins to fall in love with him - in one instance, she even helps him escape from the law, which threatens her safety and makes her an accessory to the crime - yet she's also plagued by uncertainty, she can never know for sure what the true motivation of Frankie really is.
Obviously, the real attraction of the movie is the wonderfully foreboding noir atmosphere, utilizing light and shadow to great effect, the director really manages to stretch as much as he can out of the dark goings on.
Betty Grable as Jill is quite a revelation in a dramatic role. Landis as Vicky is only briefly in the picture, but she makes a mark quickly and leaves a lasting impression, and Mature - an actor I don't normally like - is very imposing and impressive as Frankie, a desperate man on the run and fighting for his life. Mike Leonard July 06.
Betty Grable takes on the law to help clear boyfriend.
Tom McGee | Glasgow, Scotland | 08/22/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"When ambitious waitress Carole Landis reaches for Hollywood fame, she is found murdered in the apartment she shares with sister Betty Grable. Suspicion falls on Victor Mature's, Carole's promoter, but Betty believes in him and helps, through devious ploys, to unmask the real killer. Plenty of twists to keep you guessing in this exellent film noir, based on the book by Steve Fisher. Grable had one number to sing in this but, in order to sustain the dramatic content of the film, it was cut and Grable's occupation changed from songplugger to stenographer. When previewed, this film (then entitled Hot Spot) was given the thumbs down by the audience - they thought they were in for a Grable musical treat. Zanuck and director Bruce Humberstone, re-edited the film and added new key scenes, working day and night to have it ready for its premiere. Reverted to its original title, it soon became a success and is a highly rated movie in its genre.Laird Cregar steals the acting honours as the sinister detective investigating Landis's murder. And that excellent supporting actor, Elisha Cook Jr., is one of the "red herrings" under audience suspicion.Cameraman Edward Cronjager does much to add to the atmosphere of this classic mystery with some fine low-key lighting and imaginative photography."