16 May 2006 | nycritic
In the Middle
Something of a success, something of a misfire. Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, and Robert Mitchum are all cast against type in this noirish movie made in the style of THE STRANGER, GASLIGHT, and even REBECCA in which a shy woman marries a man with a dark story surrounding him. It looks lush in its black and white visuals and takes its time to get to the tight noose of its plot. However, the middle-of-the road aspect of UNDERCURRENT comes mostly because to believe Katharine Hepburn, of all women, would be this passive person with little to no self-assurance and essentially be a damsel in distress -- a role Joan Fontaine or Joan Crawford could phone in while garnering Oscars -- would be to extend the suspension of disbelief to unbelievable levels. I can see why she'd agreed to take on the role of Ann Hamilton: like any actor, it would give her a chance to extend her range and prove she could pull it off. Both Roberts fared better to varying degrees: Taylor, a thirties heartthrob, had that rich voice and those dark looks that could convincingly translate into playing the complete opposite of the leading man. Mitchum, on the other hand, never known to play an overall nice guy, does just that here. Does it work? Not as well as Taylor, especially when over the years he made a name playing some of the most memorable villains in film history in NIGHT OF THE HUNTER and CAPE FEAR. Here, Mitchum gets little to do, and must concede the scene stealing to Taylor who all but ties Hepburn to the train tracks while twitching that mustache of his and sneering. A nice surprise was to see Jayne Meadows making her film debut by playing a woman who also resembles Hepburn and has some interesting information to give Hepburn about Taylor and Mitchum.