Watered-Down Material, but Interesting Study in the Changing
mirasreviews | McLean, VA USA | 10/23/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
""Vicki" is the second film adaptation of Steve Fisher's novel "I Wake Up Screaming". The first was an A-list film made 12 years earlier, released in 1942, that retained the novel's title. 1942's "I Wake Up Screaming" starred Victor Mature as Vicki's publicity man Frankie Christopher and featured Betty Grable in her first non-musical role as Jil Lynn. 1953's "Vicki" is a moderately budgeted affair without high-power stars. It is perhaps marginally film noir but bland overall. "Vicki" has a more extensive flashback structure than the 1942 film, which awkwardly overloads the first part of the film. That is not from the book, and Dwight Taylor is credited as screenwriter on both movies. "Vicki" seems to have been adapted from the earlier film rather than from Fisher's novel.
When famous model Vicki Lynn (Jean Peters) is found murdered in her New York apartment, gruff police detective Ed Cornell (Richard Boone) insists on taking the case. Miss Lynn left a string of admirers and sponsors high and dry when she decided to try her luck in Hollywood, so there is no shortage of suspects: Her jilted boyfriend, actor Robin Ray (Alex D'Arcy). Society columnist Larry Evans (Casey Adams), who made her the toast of the town. And publicity man Steve Christopher (Elliot Reid), who engineered Vicki's rapid rise to the darling of café society. But detective Cornell decides that Christopher is the guilty party and obsessively harasses the man, even badgering Vicki's sympathetic sister Jill (Jeanne Craine), who doubts Christopher's guilt.
"Vicki" is not a bad film, but it suffers by comparison to its predecessor. It lacks the stars' charisma of "I Wake Up Screaming" as well that film's menacing tone and psychosexual subtext. The villain, Ed Cornell, is more pathetic in "Vicki" than in "I Wake Up Screaming". Perhaps that is more realistic, but the character doesn't inspire the fear that Laird Cregar's chilling interpretation did in 1942. Still, Richard Boone's performance is the best in the film. But this isn't the ideal context for an aging, obsessed, pathetic loser cop. Cornell often refers to Christopher as "pretty boy", which is puzzling given Elliot Reid's hum-drum appearance. Christopher is a slick publicity man. He should at least be a sharp dresser. Elliot Reid's performance is as benign as his wardrobe. Harry Horner was probably the wrong director for this material.
Themes and characters are watered down in "Vicki". But comparing the women in 1942's "I Wake Up Screaming" and 1953's "Vicki" gets interesting. In "I Wake Up Screaming", Vicki is the older, worldly sister. She's selfish and ambitious, but sharp. Jill is younger, wholesome, and more cautious. But she's no shrinking violet. Both women know their own minds and neither is easily intimidated. In "Vicki", Jill is the older, wiser, very maternal sister. Vicki is young, ambitious, impetuous, but also shallow and naive. "I Wake Up Screaming" reflects the feminine ideal of the 1940s: smart, utilitarian, and confident. Jill is a helper-heroine whom Christopher needs to regain control of his life. "Vicki" reflects the post-war ideal of women: Young and silly or older and maternal but, either way, frightened and driven by emotions. Jill is a love interest in "Vicki", not a partner.
The DVD (20th Century Fox 2006): Bonus features include a theatrical trailer (2 min), Still Galleries, and an audio commentary by film noir historian and author Foster Hirsch. The 3 Stills Galleries are: Advertising (12 b&w images), Behind-the-Scenes (10 b&w photos), and a 16-page Interactive Pressbook. You can zoom in on pictures or articles to read them. In his audio commentary, Foster Hirsch discusses the actors, the contrast between flat lighting and low-key "noir" lighting (what little there is of it) in the film, and takes us through the story. Hirsch also critiques "Vicki" in comparison to 1942's "I Wake Up Screaming". He doesn't hold "Vicki" in very high esteem, for some of the same and some different reasons that I don't. Subtitles for the film are available in English and Spanish."
Deja Vu All Over Again
David Baldwin | Philadelphia,PA USA | 09/16/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"In a nutshell, this remake of "I Wake Up Screaming" doesn't work whether you saw the original or this is your first time exposed to the story. The film is saddled with a blah cast and uninspired direction. The film's lone redeeming point is Richard Boone's account of dogged police detective Ed Cornell. Alas, that even suffers when compared to the masterful turn by Laird Cregar in "Screaming". This is by no means a bad film just an ordinary one. If it popped up on TCM you probably wouldn't be inclined to change the channel."
Another Fox film noir classic
Daniel Lee Taylor | GRAND PRAIRIE, Texas United States | 08/04/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This movie deserves a watching. Basically it is a remke of the better "I Wake Up Screaming." Richard Boone is very good as the cop after a murderer. Jean Peters and Carl Betz are also very good. Look for Aaron Spelling in the movie. The twist at the end make this one worthwhile."
I wake up screaming, take 2
Kevin W. Koehler | Los Angeles, CA | 01/18/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I Wake Up Screaming must be some book. Not content with making a single film adaptation of it in 1941, 20th Century Fox gave it a second go-around twelve years later with this picture, now called Vicki. Regardless of whether anyone actually wakes up screaming (they don't), I think I like the original title better, if only for its pulpy luridness. Besides, the single word Vicki recalls noir siblings Gilda and Laura, which are quite simply in a different class (more on that later).
Jean Peters is no Rita Hayworth. Neither is she Gene Tierney. Hell, she's no Carole Landis, who plays the same role in Vicki's previous Screaming incarnation.
Not that this picture is terrible. Sure, it lacks Landis' sex appeal, Betty Grable's charm, and Edward Cronjager's dramatic noir cinematography of I Wake Up Screaming. Otherwise, it adheres so closely to the original, you would have thought Gus Van Sant directed it (indeed, whole shots, framing, and long passages of dialogue are copied exact - Dwight Taylor gets sole screenwriting credit on both pictures). And the original isn't bad.
The titular Vicki is a cover girl print model discovered as a waitress in a cafeteria (she is first seen framed in the proverbial shop window, where she would like to stay in perpetuity - modeling is, after all, a business of objectification), on the fast track to stardom until her murder puts an end to all that. We revisit her rise to fame through the reminiscing (and police interrogations) of her sister (Jeanne Crain) and romantic suitors (principally Elliott Reid), all suspects in the crime. However, the eagerness with which a certain police lieutenant (Richard Boone, not as good as Laird Cregar...am I repeating myself?) tries to pin guilt on one of them leads one to wonder how innocent he is in this whole mess.
Title aside, Vicki offers other engraved invitations to compare it (mostly unfavorably) with the superior Laura (which came out, to acclaim, 9 years previous). An opening credit shot of Vickie's framed portrait is one. The narrative structure, whereby the title character is shown chiefly in flashback after their death, is another. Then there's the tough guy detective with quasi-necrophilic obsession with a deceased beauty, interviewing shallow high society suspects - the envelopes are starting to pile up, no?
It's always bizarre when films seek to remind us of other, better ones, demonstrating how inferior they are with the comparison.
Interesting footnote: Aaron Spelling makes an appearance here, in one of his early acting roles. Look for him as a creepy desk clerk in Vickie's building. Also, the original I Wake Up Screaming became somewhat of a cursed film for its talented cast. Laird Cregar died three years after its release at 30 (complications due to a crash diet) while rising star Carole Landis was in the grave four short years afterwards (suicide)."
A decently acted remake but it lacks the drama and polish of
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 09/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"About twenty minutes into the noir film Vicki - just released on DVD - I started to think that the story seemed familiar. In fact it is! The film happens to be an almost scene-by-scene carbon copy of 1942's I Wake Up Screaming. The original starred Betty Grable and Carole Landis, and was what I consider to be one of the most impressive 40's noir films ever made.
Again utilizing flashback techniques, the film tells the tale of who killed the glamorous and fickle Vicki Lynn just as she was about to abandon the men who had made her a fashion model, for a job in Hollywood. In this version Jean Peters plays Vicki Lynn and Jeanne Crain plays her stenographer sister Jill. Elliot Reid plays Steve Christopher who along with Jill tries to uncover the mystery behind who really murdered Vicki.
The actors in this version are all pretty good, although Crain and Reid certainly don't have the hot-button chemistry that existed in the earlier version between Grable and Victor Mature. Richard Boone, who plays the detective - as Laird Cregar did - is also excellent but he leaves little doubt in his performance that this man is immorally nuts. He violently and cruelly abuses Reid's poor press agent and he mopes around the café at night where Vicki used to work.
Obviously subtly wasn't on the agenda of this remake. Some scenes have been expanded on and some have been edited out all together. But most unfortunate is the type of downsizing of the sets and the exterior locations. The sets for this remake are smaller and less interesting, the lighting is mostly undistinguished and the scenes requiring crowds or location work - nightclubs, the swimming pool and certain street scenes - are eliminated or reduced to nothing.
Harry Horner's direction is brisk and vigorous and the action is always fast paced, but the movie lacks the drama and the excitement of the first film. The actors - especially Peters and Crain are suitably lovely and engaging - but the movie as a whole is a bit flat and perfunctory. And the ending has been changed so that it isn't quite so outrageous and therefore lacks the impact of the first.
Also, the cheap sets and other decorations tell us that Vicki Lynn has become a famous cover girl and saloon singer, but all we see is a sudden propagation of posters and magazine covers, and her face constantly on sidewalk billboards. She appears to be on every cover of every magazine, every week and her rise to overnight stardom is indeed rather sudden.
You just don't really get the sense of realism that embodied the original and it's as though Horner was desperately trying to cobble together something that didn't really need to be remade. Still, the movie is worth watching most probably for the good performances of all the leads, and the very obvious eye candy of Boone and Reid. Mike Leonard September 06. "