Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Wives Under Suspicion|
Actor: William Lundigan Warren William
Director: James Whale
A district attorney who believes all killers should get the electric chair is driven by jealousy to plot his wife's murder.
Highly satisfying programmer
J. W. Hickey | Manhattan area | 04/22/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Rewatching GODS AND MONSTERS led to my rewatching other films directed by James Whale. On the heels of the two FRANKENSTEIN classics, this programmer holds up nicely. In their context, I'm tempted to give this one four stars but, on its own terms within a familiar genre of the period, WIVES UNDER SUSPICION dodges many cliches and comes through with intelligence and professionally impressive performances.
Some grad student may devote a term paper to Whale's use of men's hats as a running motif. And the comic relief of the maid merits cautionary praise for the handling of racist strains in the script. But over all the movie is a pleasure that toys with a hubris-drenched plot with mature conviction.
The murderer on trial repeats his "kiss in the mirror" story several times, perhaps because audiences didn't feel obliged to enter a movie only at the start of the picture until Hitchcock's PSYCHO changed how we view movies in public. But the George Morgan's reading is reminiscent of the credibility in the blind saint's performance in BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, bringing a deserved pathos to the film as a whole.
Williams is most charming when he doesn't try to be: the Barrymore leer is happily less present here. And Whale's direction is excellent without calling undue attention to his narrative devices. Gail Patrick, William Lundigan, Cecil Cunningham, and Jonathan Hinds all do fine in the well reproduced Alpha DVD.
Serviceable but a Poor Dub
Doug - Haydn Fan | California | 01/29/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Any James Whale film warrants a look, and this little film is no exception. For starters the film boasts Gail Patrick, who earlier found screen immortality as Carole Lombard's raven-haired wicked sister in My Man Godfrey. (With her jet black hair and patrician hatuer Patrick looks for all the world like the model Disney used to create the wicked Queen in Snow White.) Ms Patrick never rose to the top, but she wore clothes about as well as anyone - see her cocktail get-up when she tries to seduce Powell on his day off in Godfrey - and is usually a decided plus. (Incidentally she later became one of the forces behind the long-running Perry Mason TV series.)
The other leading members of the cast also never quite made the top echelon, though Warren William certainly had his shot, he never excelled. He's probably best remembered today for his role as "Duke", the superstitious uptown gambler who latches onto a good luck charm in the person of impoverished "Apple Annie", played perfectly by May Robson, in Frank Capra's charming 1933 "Lady for a Day". William, like Patrick, has a major Perry Mason connection - he was the first film Perry Mason, and made four Mason films, "The Case of the Howling Dog" (1934) with Mary Astor; "The Case of the Curious Bride" (1934); The Case of the Lucky Legs" (1935); and "The Case of the Velvet Claws" (1936). By the time of this film, "Wives Under Suspicion" (1938), William was past his prime. He would prove very good in a supporting role the next year, also under Whale's direction, as D'Artagnan in "The Man in the Iron Mask".
However, in "Wives Under Suspicion" William has to carry much of the film, and if truth be told, his acting is sometimes crude, especially in his courtroom grandstanding - a tendency sadly run amok and essentially de rigeur in practically every film with a court scene after Lionel Barrymore was awarded an Oscar for his overacting as a defense attorney in the 1931 Norma Shearer/Clark Gable ganster melodrama film "A Free Soul". Based on the script-writer's own father, a flamboyant San Francisco attorney, this persona would set a standard for courtroom theatricality we're still stuck with today. In "A Free Soul" Barrymore caps the gig by dropping dead of a heart attack! I suppose that's not an option for the likes of today's Law and Order, unless they're planning to write someone out of the show. Talk about giving your all for your client...Hoo boy! Anyway, by 1938 this sort of stuff looked even worse than when Lionel keeled over back in 1931. (Perhaps Ms. Patrick remembered such courtroom antics as these or her next feature, Disbarred, about a crooked attorney, when she turned as producer to the more sober and somber ex-tough guy Raymond Burr to play Perry Mason in the now legenday tv series. By which time she was now Gail Patrick Jackson and, horror of horror of horrors, a BLOND! Like waking up one day to discover the wicked Queen from Snow White is actually Doris Day!)
The Plot: As was often the case with James Whale films the story posits a well-used theatrical angle, in this case reenactment, to force a sort of unwilling character development on the protagonist. Here, to open up the inner side of a harsh merciless DA, fate begins a series of events drawing him closer and closer to the same behavior he condemned in a man he prosecuted for murder. The DA discovers to his surprise and confusion sympathies for a man he held in contempt. After a series of rather too pat events in his own life he has to face unexpected truths, truths he never would have suspected until propelled by the narrative into stumbling onto his own darker capacties for evil.
Sadly this release does little to showcase the attention Whale gave to the cinematic aspects of his film-making. Whale was never the type of director to micro-manage his cinematographer, as was the case with Karl Freund, who admittedly had reason to play both director and cameraman! However, Whale's films made fine use of theatrical lighting and mood, and in a poor dub, such as this one, much of the pleasure of watching is lost.
As the over-exposed Tod Browning's stock as director continues to plummet and Whale's keeps going up and up, perhaps we may someday have a chance to enjoy films such as this in much better prints. I hope so!
Note: Norma Shearer's sizzling new screen persona, a sort of retro vamp-plus, found it's ultimate moment playing against Clark Gable in the above mentioned "A Free Soul". The genius behind this new look was not created in house, but rather by fashion photogrpaher George Hurrell, who at the end of the twenties totally remade Shearer's look. For a fabulous book on Hurrell see "Hurrell's Hollywood Portraits" by Mark A. Viera. Unlike the above film this IS cleanly printed, though still no match for seeing a Hurrell original."