Byron Kolln | the corner where Broadway meets Hollywood | 11/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"CAUSE FOR ALARM is a very entertaining film in the noir-suspense vein. Loretta Young plays a housewife whose terminally-ill husband becomes mentally unbalanced and accuses her of trying to kill him. When he writes a damning letter to the District Attorney, she must embark on a race against time to retrieve it.
A prime Loretta Young vehicle. She offers an amazing performance in what turned out to be one of her last movies before focusing on a lucrative television career. With Margalo Gillmore, Barry Sullivan, Bruce Cowling, Irving Bacon and Brad Mora. CAUSE FOR ALARM was directed with great skill by Tay Garnett, who several years before had directed the noir masterpiece THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE. The score was composed by Andre Previn.
Alpha's DVD offers a fine-looking Public Domain print (taken from a good quality VHS master). For Loretta Young fans and admirers of the noir genre, this is quite the treat."
Film noir comes to suburbia in this suspenseful gem
Daniel Jolley | Shelby, North Carolina USA | 09/24/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cause For Alarm (1951) is something of an oddity in the film noir genre, bringing its gritty sense of increasing tension and suspense out of the shadows of the night into the bright, daytime light of suburbia. Only a talented actress could make this story work, and Loretta Young shines in the role of the distraught wife of a paranoid, dying husband. Her character Ellen Jones seems to be quite the devoted wife caring selflessly for her bedridden husband George (Barry Sullivan), and a flashback to the couple's first meeting reveals a husband madly in love with her from the moment he laid eyes on her. This happy-go-lucky fellow is a far cry from the man we meet upstairs suffering from a mysterious heart ailment, for he has come to believe that his wife and best friend/doctor, Ranney Grahame (Bruce Cowling), are plotting to kill him so that they can be together. He is so convinced of this that he sends a thoroughly incriminating letter to the district attorney before confronting Ellen with his charges. He tells Ellen all about the letter that she herself delivered into the hands of the postman but collapses before he is able to exact his mad revenge upon her personally. Ellen's in a real spot; the man she loves has just died trying to kill her, and the terrible letter already on its way to the D.A. will make everyone think she killed him. What she must do, of course, is get that letter back before it reaches its destination. What follows is a frustrating, maddening, increasingly suspenseful paper chase, with all manner of obstacles placed in Ellen's way. Trying to get a letter back from the postman may not sound exciting, but Cause For Alarm delivers an almost frenetically suspenseful plot that leaves one wondering what will happen at the very end. Not only did I wonder if she would get the letter back in time, I wondered if there was more to George's paranoid suspicions than there originally seemed, as Ellen climbs up to the very pinnacle of panic, enmeshing herself in an increasingly entangling web of lies and deceit that stand to bring upon herself the very suspicions that she seeks to avoid. Cause For Alarm really and truly kept me in growing suspense from start to finish, culminating in a perfectly effective and satisfying conclusion."
"This girl is in trouble!"
Dave | Tennessee United States | 09/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"-Quite the self-explanatory tagline, used for the 1951 theatrical release of "Cause for Alarm", an almost forgotten "B" film noir starring the lovely Loretta Young. Directed by Tay Garnett (who directed the noir classic "The Postman Always Rings Twice") and produced by Loretta's husband Tom Lewis, "Cause for Alarm" was originally a radio play. Actually, it's very interesting how Loretta Young got to play the starring role in this film. Tom Lewis initially wanted Judy Garland for the role of Ellen Jones, but Loretta's lawyer told him that he was discriminating against her because she was his wife. Needless to say, she got the role!
Lorreta Young stars as Ellen Jones, a patient, loving, and devoted wife of her sick, bedridden husband George (Barry Sullivan). Over time George has become firmly convinced that his wife is having an affair with his best friend Ranney Grahame (Bruce Cowling) and is plotting with Ranney to kill him. George writes all this down in a letter to the District Attorney and gets his naive wife to hand the letter to the mailman. That's when he drops the bombshell and confronts Ellen about his suspicions. She of course denies his ridiculous claims and tries desperately to assure him of her love and loyalty, but it's no use. Totally losing control, he struggles to his feet and tries to kill her, but instead he falls over and dies.
Although she is spared from his murder attempt, Ellen's troubles are just beginning. She quickly realizes that if the letter from her husband reaches the District Attorney she'll be charged with George's murder. She then races against time to get the letter back before it's delivered, but along the way she continuously makes many self-incriminating mistakes (You know, the kind that only a scared innocent person could make!) and has to deal with several annoying people (and one VERY bratty kid) before achieving her goal. Finally George's best friend Ranney Grahame comes to her rescue after hearing what happened, although it may already be too late to save her from a murder charge...
The main flaw of "Cause for Alarm" is the abrupt ending which totally disappointed me. I was hoping for and expecting much more after the continuous buildup of suspense but instead the ending was very flat and unimpressive. Overall, though, it's quite an entertaining movie, especially for a low-budget "B" noir. In my opinion both Loretta Young and Barry Sullivan were highly underated, and their exceptional performances in this movie helped overcome the absurdities of the plot. I first learned of this movie when reading Arthur Lyons superb book _Death on the Cheap: the Lost B Movies of Film Noir_. "Cause for Alarm" is definitely recommended for classic film noir buffs. "
He planned for her to panic
JumpinJellyfish | California USA | 11/16/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Since there are several reviews already listing the outline of the plot I'll just mention a few key points that I feel were handled very skillfully.
First of all, I find the handling of George's (the husband's) character very elegant. The first time I saw the movie I bought it completely--the whole bit about him being wonderful until illness and despair drove him into psychosis. Upon my second viewing I realized a few things that give his character a whole different slant.
We see from the very beginning, in Ellen's flashback to their meeting and courtship, that although he is quite dashing he is also sly, self-serving, manipulative, and somewhat malicious. This is shown by the way he tricks her and takes advantage in the hospital room and then laughs at her. We also see in the beach and airport scenes that he relishes taking her away from his own best friend. Anyone with a real heart--get the symbolism there--would feel a little regret about that.
Later, after he is established as an invalid, the isolation and anxiety caused by his cardiac condition are becoming evident as he intersperses perfectly rational conversation with sudden flights of mania and flashes of paranoia. His delusions seem ridiculous compared to Ellen's obvious devotion and worry, but we do wonder if perhaps he isn't right, after all, about the involvement of the doctor (his best friend of old). Maybe the poor doctor really is guilty of secretly wishing George would hurry up and die, leaving the way clear for him to pursue Ellen once more; maybe he's too noble to ever think such a thing at all. Regardless, George believes it.
There is a lovely scene before he dies where we see precisely what his relationship is to these people and what he has planned for them. He describes for Ellen his childhood toy, the ship in a bottle, and the neighbor boy who touched it when his back was turned and whom he savagely attacks in return. Before his mother can force him to give up the ship in apology he purposely dashes the bottle to the floor, destroying it completely.
The parallel between the ship and Ellen is obvious--something lovely and fragile and completely captive. He has contained Ellen within their house without allowing her to form friendships or outside interests and he expects her to exist solely for him, just as he wanted no one else to touch or look at his ship. And now he believes his friend is secretly planning against him, or maybe he's making that up as a form of justification for what he is about to do. Since he's already convinced he's dying, he's furious that it now appears he's also giving up his wife to the other fellow in rather the way he was expected to reward the covetous neighbor boy. Just like the scene in his youth, he acts to damage his perceived rival and ruin the prize. The only difference is that now with maturity he is able to plot and scheme rather than strike out impulsively. I am left wondering if he truly is paranoid about their "plot" or if this is his crafty, nasty way of shattering the ship all over again.
The moments with Aunt Clara only reinforce the impression that George never was quite normal. She seems to have no trouble believing the lie about George turning against her, thus she immediately retaliates with a remark that leaves no doubt of a long familial history overlooking his cruel tendencies. I thought it was very nicely done, and all the more effective because Clara isn't a sympathetic character. We certainly see a resemblance to George in her utter self-absorption.
One wonders how a nice, intelligent being like Ellen could be taken in by George, but they say love is blind. This is evinced by the scenes where she always just misses seeing him at the window. Others notice him, or she detects the swaying drapery, but she never quite sees the whole picture of him sitting spiderlike among webs of curtain lace.
The film does a fine job of ratcheting up the suspense by using the most mundane scenarios. The almost ridiculous nature of the obstacles in her path contrast with just how sinister George's plan is. He must know that an investigation into his death would be inconclusive at best (even given the large life insurance policy as a motive). But a close review of Ellen's activities that day would cast new light on the details in his letter. We see Ellen driven by panic and pent-up stress into behaving less and less rationally and appearing more and more guilty. She certainly seems doomed, and this could only be brought about by the revelation from George. I feel this is further evidence that he has contrived the plot out of malice rather than paranoia or a desire for posthumous justice. He knows exactly how her innocent, beleaguered heart will react to the news. In fact, he is counting on it, he has carefully cultivated this moment.
I don't believe for one second that he ever intends to shoot her. Notice he never points the gun directly at her. I think he means to shoot the woodwork and cement the impression that he was trying to defend himself. He wants it to look like she was forcing him to take more drugs. He knows the overdose he took earlier will only add weight to the accusation, he just doesn't expect it to finish him off right at that moment.
The irony of her shooting the floor herself later on makes me think I'm right about that. It serves as a tidy little bookend moment.
I also love the ironic, abrupt ending that simply poleaxes Ellen and halts her in her steps. It's wonderful how the relentless, pounding pace of her mounting hysteria is like heart palpitations bounding out of control when suddenly it all just...stops. (Rather like George). Another great bookend moment. Delicious."
Terrific suspense film!
the apollo review | USA | 05/30/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ellen Brown (Loretta Young) is having a really bad day. Actually that would be an understatement. Let me start from the beginning. A huge monkey wrench has been thrown into her comfortable, idyllic early 1950's suburban lifestyle. Her husband George (Barry Sullivan) has a serious heart condition which is making him deteriorate not only physically but psychologically as well. He was once very much in love with his wife, but now he suffers from delusions and is convinced that Ellen and his doctor and once friend Ranney Grahame (Bruce Cowling) are plotting to kill him. George writes a letter to the district attorney stating this and has Ellen mail it, not knowing of the contents until it's too late. George's condition worsens and he tries to kill Ellen and it is during this scene that she finds out about the letter he had her mail, right before he drops dead. Now Ellen has to hurry and get the letter back before she's wrongly implicated in her husband's demise. Things get interesting as we go along on Ellen's journey to get the letter back. It may sound like a simple mundane task, but numerous interruptions keep occurring that get in the way of Ellen's quest. The suspense grows and grows to a maddening level and as viewers we can feel Ellen's anguish and desperation. The suspense keeps up until we reach the end. You'll have to see for yourself how it turns out. Loretta Young does a perfect job in her role. We can almost feel and relate to every emotion that she experiences as if we were going through the ordeal ourselves. Barry Sullivan and Bruce Cowling also do a great job in their roles. While this may not be blockbuster material, it is worth watching and very well made. It's also notable as one of the last films Loretta Young starred in before she went on to work in television. See it at least once; I think you'll enjoy it!"