The wife of a psycho-analyst falls prey to a devious quack hypnotist when he discovers she is an habitual shoplifter. Then one of his previous patients now being treated by the real doctor is found murdered, with her still... more » at the scene, and suspicion points only one way.« less
"I dislike inspiring so much terror in such a lovely woman."
cookieman108 | Inside the jar... | 10/03/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Believe it or not, Whirlpool (1949) is my very first Otto Preminger film, probably because I spend a great deal of time rummaging around in the cinematic `bargain bin', meaning many of the movies I watch (almost exclusively on DVD) tend not to be of the highest caliber...that's not to say I don't enjoy wonderful films like this, but I may not review them as often as I should...anyway, based on a novel by Guy Endore titled "Methinks The Lady", and directed by Otto Preminger (Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm, Porgy and Bess), the film stars the very lovely Gene Tierney (Laura, Leave Her to Heaven, The Razor's Edge), Richard Conte (Call Northside 777, The Blue Gardenia, Ocean's Eleven), and José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac, Moulin Rouge), whom I'm thankful to see in a decent, if not excellent role, given the last two films I saw him in, Dracula's Dog (1978) and Bloody Birthday (1981), were hardly vehicles that showcased his true talents, but I suppose in Hollywood, to maintain a sense of longevity in terms of an acting career, you take what you can get...also appearing is Charles Bickford (Brute Force, A Star Is Born) and Barbara O'Neil (Gone with the Wind, I Remember Mama).
As the film begins we see an attractive woman (Tierney) leaving a department store (stores have valet parking? I gotta get out more...), soon to be accosted by the store detective, as she's caught stealing an expensive trinket. As she's hauled back in, protesting all the way, a man named David Korvo (Ferrer) recognizes the woman, and comes to her aide. Turns out she's Ann Sutton, wife to a prominent and affluent psychoanalyst named Dr. William Sutton (Conte). The management, seeing the possibility of negative publicity for the store, releases Ann (must be nice...if this happened to me I'd probably be enjoying the comforts of a 6 by 9 concrete room with burly man named Bubba), but thus begins her relationship with Korvo, an oily, opportunistic, highly intelligent and perceptive con artist who passes himself off as a doctor of sort, his specialty being astrology and hypnosis. Given this recent event, you'd think it a prime opportunity for blackmail, but Korvo expresses interest in helping Ann with her issues, which include a persistent case of insomnia. Ann secretly takes Korvo up on his offer mainly due to the fact her husband doesn't know about her condition, as she's afraid of the adverse effects her problems may have on her husband's career (and their marriage) if word ever got out, but Korvo's machinations prove a slippery slope marked with lies, deceit, and even murder.
There were two stand out performances here for me, that of Gene Tierney, sporting a very short hairdo (she looks so much better with it long), and José Ferrer, whose credentials I began to question lately due to some of his later choices in film roles. Tierney does a great job filling out her character, one full of emotion, passion, fear, love, and confusion. She's a strong, beautiful, and intelligent woman, struggling with her supposed role in life, specifically the perceptions of what she's supposed to be, and what she would like to be...the psychological conflict is purposely buried, but ends up manifesting itself in strange behavior. Ferrer's character, picks up on this enough so to work himself around it, insinuating himself into Ann's life, and setting in motion a carefully crafted, highly devious plan designed to misdirect, confuse, and obfuscate the truth. Oh how I hated him (his character, that is)...he was so manipulative, smug and pretentious...and greasy...oh, not physically, but on the inside. Some of my favorite lines in the film occur at the afternoon society party thrown for Korvo, as he makes various cloaked, verbal jabs at his host...was she deserving? Probably so, but once you get a full realization of from who the remarks are coming from, it tends to feel much like the pot calling the kettle black, except for the fact the kettle is really only gray and the pot is completely charred. Does that make sense? Probably not...the really interesting thing about this movie is I doubt any of the characters here are people I'd want to spend time with...a thief who has clandestine meetings with another man and keeps past indiscretions from her spouse, her knuckleheaded husband who sees his wife as more of a trophy rather than an individual, despite obvious signs the role is not a good fit for her, and a top notch con man willing to do anything to protect himself from trouble. As far as the rest of the performances, some were good, albeit familiar (Bickford), while others seemed acceptable (Conte). As intelligent as Conte's character was supposed to be, he seemed always a few steps (at least) behind what was actually going on...I guess the difficulty I had here was not with the performer, but more so the character, as he presented these perfectly simplistic notions with regards to his relationship with his wife (along with some associated lines of dialog), unable to sense the turmoil developing within, especially given his profession. Was it a case of not seeing the forest for the trees? No, it was more like not seeing the forest or the trees...I found it hard to buy off that Conte's character could be as noted and respected as he was within his profession, yet so dense when it came to his own wife. Despite this gripe, the overall story is solid, interesting and filmed immaculately well, and the dialog strong and supportive and in tune of the differing characters and the performers playing them. The story does feature some fantastical elements to be sure, but there's a level of complexity within the material that can actually support the burden, and create a sense of plausibility, for myself, at least...
The picture on this DVD, presented in the original aspect ration (1.33:1), looks exceptionally clean and sharp, and the audio comes through excellent, available in both Dolby Digital stereo and Dolby Digital mono. Special features include a commentary track with film critic Richard Schickel, a theatrical trailer, and trailers for other Fox noir DVD releases like Call Northside 777 (1948), The Dark Corner (1946), House of Bamboo (1955), Laura (1944), Nightmare Alley (), Panic in the Streets (1947), and The Street with No Name (1948).
D. James | Melbourne, Australia | 12/20/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This film and its DVD treatment are superb. There's nothing left to say that hasn't already been said in great detail by other reviewers but as a classic film fanatic and a film noir junkie I cannot recommend this title enough. If you've seen and enjoyed 'Laura' and or 'Where the Sidewalk Ends', both also starring the breath-taking Gene Tierney and directed by Otto Preminger, have no hesitation in securing this DVD for your collection. The price is at least half what it's worth!"
WHAT'S WORST THAN A KLEPTOMANIAC? A HYPNOTISED KLEPTOMANIAC!
Forrest C. Hopson | Burnsville, NC USA | 01/25/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Whirlpool" is a swirl of hypnotizing deceit, revenge, and murder. The beautiful Gene Tierney plays the kleptomaniac rich wife of psychiatrist, Richard Conte, who falls prey to the evil intentions of hypnotist, Jose Ferrer. Otto Preminger directs this film noir drama, that keeps the viewers attention throughout. Jose Ferrer is especially entertaining as the menacing hypnotist, who uses Gene Tierney to do his dirty work. This movie is a classic who-done-it, which had me knowing who must have obviously done it, but wondering "how" or "who" they used to do it. This one has a great conclusion at the end of the picture. "Whirlpool" is the ninth volume in the "Fox Film Noir" series and a very good addition. I highly recommend "Whirlpool" to film noir and Gene Tierney fans, and also recommend Otto Preminger's masterpiece "Laura" and the Fox Studio Classics release "Leave Her To Heaven," a story of psychotic obsession, also starring the lovely Gene Tierney."
Tierney's best acting. A noir treat!
J. Kara Russell | Hollywood - the cinderblock Industrial cubicle | 07/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a marvelous film noir story set in every day upper-middle-class America. It presents the popular ambivalence felt at the time about psychoanalysis, with one "good" Doctor and one charlatan.
I am a fan of Gene Tierney, without thinking she a great actress. She was exceptionally pretty, had a very polished manner, and very average in range. This made her a wonderful representative of both the middle class, and their hopes of being refined. To my mind, while this is not her best film (That being either THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR or LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN), this IS her finest acting work. It uses her blankness to advantage, and this script also gives her the pathos and confusion to vent full emotional range which is rare for her films. (To the observant person, it also displays the flaws of her presentational acting style; as when she breaks down in a torrent of bitter tears, and looks up afterwards - dry eyed and serene. But for THIS film - playing a woman completely divorced from her own emotions - even that works to the benefit of the plot.)
An actor is always helped - made better, challenged more - by working with other great actors, and she is working here with one of the very best, Jose Ferrer. This was shortly before his academy award win in CYRANNO, and quite possibly, this incredibly complex performance contributed to that win, he is simply excellent. All screen villains should watch this, every second of his performance is filled with a gamut of emotions, and mundane details. It is clear that not only is his character the smartest person in the room, but Ferrer may be as well. Tierney carries the story and Ferrer moves it along. Charles Bickford also gives a marvelous performance in a smaller, yet layered role as the rumpled, grieving Detective.
Richard Conte, is the real oddball casting. His street-tough demeanor is what carried his career. (He is magnificent as the psycho mob boss in stylish expressionistic noir film, THE BIG COMBO.) So it was an interesting choice to cast him as the intellectual top-notch psychologist, and ideal husband, but it doesn't really work. We just can't really believe that people would turn to him for help, that level of sensitivity isn't there. Ultimately, this is an undercurrent of the movie, however, and Director Otto Preminger may have been making the point that even a good Psychiatrist may not be that good for people.
This film was probably shocking in its day - not very nice - like watching those lovely people next door have a drunken brawl. A larger theme which is being exposed here is that the "perfect post-war life" is an empty façade. Since this was made in 1949, this film presents a very early warning shot across the bow of the "Cleaver Family" façade. It would be almost 10 years before this was a much more common thread, in such movies as the Kim Novak/Kirk Douglas "STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET," and then films with James Dean, who became the poster boy of idyllic family life with a dysfunctional core.
The talented Ben Hecht wrote the screenplay with Andrew Solt, based on a novel by Guy Endore. Much more than mystery, much more than noir, this is a very fine story with good plot twists, emotional life (which is usually absent or ice-cold in noir), developed with subtlety and brains. It is still a joy to watch for itself, but made timeless by the despicable, love-to-hate-him performance of Jose Ferrer. "
Interesting Noir Finally Makes Its Way To DVD
Gypsy | Canada | 03/29/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This film has been unavailable for so many years, so to finally have it on DVD is great. It is an unusual film noir from Otto Preminger and his favorite leading lady, Gene Tierney, who had starred in his classic "Laura" and whom had just completed her maternity leave when production began on "Whirlpool".
Tierney gives a fascinating performance as Ann Sutton, the beautiful wife of a prominent psychiatrist (Richard Conte) who suffers from kleptomania but who will do anything to conceal this. When hypnotist David Korvo (Jose Ferrer, very menacing here), gets her out of a jam with the local authorities due to her shoplifting tendencies, he decides to use it as a form of blackmail against her in order to use his hypnotizing skills on her. He gets her to perform all kinds of shady deeds, while succeeding in getting her conscious mind to suppress it. She is strangely drawn to him, while her dumbfounded husband can come to only one conclusion - that she and Korvo are involved in an illicit affair. Ann desperately tries to prove her innocence, and in the process, leads all involved in a potentially deadly trap to stop Korvo.
There are echoes of "Laura" throughout, including the portrait that hangs over the mantle at the home of the ill-fated Theresa Randolph (Barbara O'Neill, best remembered as Scarlett's mother in GWTW), and the final shootout. Definitely an off-beat movie of the noir genre, it is still a very watchable one. Richard Conte is a little unconvincing as Tierney's shrink husband, but he manages to pull it off, with efficient support from Tierney and Ferrer.
Can a man make a woman do things she doesn't want to do? Watch "Whirlpool" and draw your own conclusions.
A great addition to the Fox Film Noir collection."