Circle of Danger (1951)

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It doesn’t do to go around sobbing and putting up monuments. American World War 2 veteran Clay Douglas (Ray Milland) arrives in London to find out how his little brother was the only casualty in a British commando operation in occupied France. He follows the trail to Scotland where he meets platoon officer Hamish McArran (Hugh Sinclair) who informs him that most of the men are now dead and he provides him with information to contact the few survivors. Clay encounters children’s novelist Elspeth Graham (Patricia Roc) who meets him again back in London where he starts to track down the remaining commandos and uncover what really happened while the pair begin a very uneasy romance …  If I were you I’d spank the little bastard – hard. Shot by the great British cinematographers Oswald Morris and Gilbert Taylor, this is a handsome production adapted by Philip MacDonald from his own novel. What it lacks in thrills it makes up for in a deceptive charm and there’s a good twist. Along the way we have a cold/hot/cold romance with Roc, whose motives remain a little clouded. Nonetheless it’s an interesting insight into necessary deaths in wartime, with the guy Peter Bogdanovich once called the roadshow Cary Grant acquitting himself well in the lead, working with director Jacques Tourneur to turn a vengeful character into a more understanding one. It doesn’t stand with Tourneur’s best work but there are nice supporting performances by Marius Goring, Naunton Wayne and Dora Bryan.  I think Hank was murdered by one of the other commandos in that raid


Dial M for Murder (1954)

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With the release of Gone Girl (Fincher, 2014) one is tempted to remember another marriage plot, with the resplendent Grace Kelly, the suave Ray Milland and the third part of that particular marriage’s triangle, the bland murder mystery writer, Mark (Robert Cummings).  Shot in chronological order, and with just a courtroom scene to differentiate this 3D film from the stage play by Frederick Knott, it is a masterpiece of tension and melodramatic dread, shaded in Kelly’s increasingly complex performance. Ingeniously staging the work from different angles, including overhead, no studio flat ever seemed so small and yet so replete with danger. Kelly’s hair is styled differently to further our understanding of her predicament, her clothes steadily darker and her mood more penumbral. Marriage is murder. For more on the films made by Hitchcock with Kelly, see my article on Offscreen:

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