Monday, November 10, 2008


"Yes, granted I'm an oily rascal. Yes, I agree. A liar, a swindler and - what was that last one? Oh, yes, without a trace of human conscience."


Cyrano de Charlatan, dueling brainwashers, the Richard Conte twins, 101 hypnotic pick-up lines, a grouchy widowed police lieutenant, couples therapy through murder, and the cutest klepto since Winona.

More details here.


Anne Sutton (Gene Tierney) is married to a noted psychiatrist (Richard Conte), shops on Wilshire, and keeps a terrible secret from him: she’s kleptomaniac. She’s also an insomniac, a chronic worrier and kind of a dumbbell who easily falls for slimeballs in the form of David Korvo (José Ferrer). When they first meet, Korvo talks her out of a sticky situation at a department store after she’s caught pocketing jewelry. He introduces himself as a self-professed astrologer/hypnotist who claims he can help cure her problems. Anne admits to Korvo that she is not sure of the stability of her marriage, and it’s hinted that she has deep psychological problems exacerbated by her insecurities. She is ashamed of bringing her problems to her well-respected husband, and when her association with Korvo blossoms, she unwittingly falls under the control of the evil mesmerizing conman. Through hypnotic trances and his wily way with words, he seduces and frames her for the murder of one of her husband’s patients, a woman who has been extorting money from him. She is arrested for the murder and suddenly her husband takes an interest and tries to clear her name. But Korvo deftly creates an alibi for himself and it appears that his control over Anne is more powerful than she can overcome. Dr. Sutton, his lawyer, and a gruff but loveable police detective join forces to solve the case, break Anne out of her spell, and take that long-nosed magical gigolo down.


Whirlpool has got a lot going for it: director Otto Preminger, venerated Hollywood screenwriter Ben Hecht, the wonderful José Ferrer, and the gorgeous Gene Tierney, just four years past her role in the noir classic Laura. But all that talent at work cannot guarantee an even movie, and the film starts with promise but slowly swirls down the drain with slow pacing and long-winded plotting. Tierney is radiant in the role of Anne, but somehow seems out of place with a hint of disinterest. But you can argue that her detached, robotic air fits perfectly into a portrayal of a woman slowly losing her grasp on reality and plunging into a nightmare world of mental illness, a sad sign of things to come in Tierney’s real life. You just can’t take your eyes off her, especially after her plunge into despair. Ferrer is outstanding as Korvo who makes for a boastful, arrogant, and bombastic villain. His hammy acting style is particularly suitable for the role of a conniving pretender whose mental abilities may be legit. Other than Tierney and Ferrer, the rest of the cast is unremarkable. Conte seems to be phoning it in, bringing nothing of the brooding intensity or depth we saw in House of Strangers. Visually, there are some interesting moments especially during the eerie sequence where a hypnotized Anne wanders the home of the murdered woman like a ghost, indifferent to the ways of the living. Unfortunately, Whirlpool shows little of the greatness of the talent behind the camera, but pays off with two solid performances by Ferrer and Tierney and presents interesting statements on marriage, fidelity, and the thin line between charlatanism and psychiatry.

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