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  • All of the criticisms of this movie might well be flushed down the loo. This is one powerhouse of an interesting movie.

    Call it Film-Noir. Call it Mystery/Suspense. Call it Psychological Thriller. Call it what you may...I call it: absorbing drama.

    It moves very deliberately...and the facts are revealed one by one, in true mystery fashion, until the fantastic, thrilling ending.

    Those who say that Hepburn and Mitchum were miscast are just so wrong. Hepburn wasn't playing Hepburn here...she wasn't Tracy Lord here. She wasn't a know-it-all New England uppity snob here. Not a worldly character at all. She played a different character than I've ever seen her do. Hepburn doesn't rely on her stable of clichés to capture our imagination here. She does it with imagination and as few of the Hepburn cornerstone mannerisms as possible. Good result!

    Robert Taylor is fascinating to watch. He has so many secrets in this role. And they reside behind his facade for us to watch and enjoy. He slowly swirls into controlled mania and desperate determination. Very fine, indeed. He should have been nominated for this one.

    And then there's Mitchum! What can one say about Mitchum without gushing foolishly. Gee whiz...the first time you see him...he shows us a side of him we have hardly ever seen! He seems at peace, mild in character, mellow in mood...pensive...other worldly. Likable even! Never gruff or abrasive like we've seen him so many times before.

    What is unique about this story is that we really do not know what is going to happen next. We spend most of the movie residing in Hepburn's character's mind. Her wondering, her confusion, her search for the truth -- at all costs.

    I was expecting not to like this movie. I was expecting it to be another formulaic Hepburn vehicle about high society. But this is where this movie takes a left turn into an underrated mystery.

    I enjoyed the use of the theme to the Third Movement of Johannes Brahms' Third Symphony throughout the movie. It lent a delicious air of mystery, love and luscious pastoral passion to the whole affair.

    And to say that Vincente Minnelli was WRONG for this movie? Gee whiz! He was perfect! Why compare him to Hitchcock? Minnelli has manufactured a mystery world all his own. Sure there are devices. All movies have devices. But they are handled so deftly...we don't rely on them to make us aware of the story -- they don't get in our way. They heighten our interest and this very absorbing plot.

    Well done. I wish it had been a longer was THAT kind of movie.

    I recommend this one...
  • Builders13 August 2005
    Warning: Spoilers
    Upon first viewing, Undercurrent is an unexpected treat, commanding full attention for almost 2 hours. Hepburn in the role of Ann, manipulated, insecure, feeling under-dressed and overwhelmed at a social event, terrified and claustrophobic as her new husband's character is revealed, is not to be missed. As others have noted, the plot has "Rebecca-esque" qualities, but a character completely its own.

    Taylor's tormented Alan is also perfect, darkly ruminating and possessive, always on the edge of losing control, driven mad by his wife's interest in his hated and absent brother, and jealously afraid of losing her love.

    While the ending is somewhat predictable, the plot also amazes, as it progressively reveals a person not present (for example, using the rebound book of prose with the underlined Robert Louis Stevenson poem, innocently quoted by Ann, believing it to be her husband's) and destroys the covetous, deceitful and murderous Alan.
  • Expecting something completely different when I saw the cast-list, this movie took me by surprise. Hepburn discarding more or less her usual screen-persona holds this mystery-thriller together with a strong performance.Robert Taylor returning from service in WW II,takes another step from those pretty boy parts of his early career. Robert Mitchum,still fresh after his breakthrough, is more or less wasted in a supporting role. Clearly patterned after earlier successes like Preminger's "Laura" and Hitchcock's "Rebecca" this movie isn't quite in the same league,but it still better than most.This is another title I hope will arrive on DVD.
  • blanche-25 February 2001
    What a cast! Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum! Hepburn here is paired with Robert Taylor, a scientist, who seems to have some very nervous employees and some sensitive areas, one concerning an absent brother, Michael. When Hepburn meets one of Taylor's old girlfriends, a very well cast Jayne Meadows, she becomes suspicious of Taylor's motives for marrying her - and suspicious about what happened to Taylor's brother.

    Hepburn gives her usual intelligent performance, showing a vulnerable, feminine side that is very appealing. There is a scene in a fitting room where she is absolutely stunning. The scenes between her and her father, played by Edmund Gwenn, are delightful and realistic, as she complains that Taylor could not be attracted to her. "Look at me," she demands, "what do you see? " Her father smiles and says "Beautiful" and kisses her. It's this type of gentleness coupled with good acting, underlying suspense and excitement that makes Undercurrent a very good -- and very underrated -'40s film. Taylor is handsome and enigmatic in his role. Somewhere along the way, he stumbled into playing bad boys, as he does later on in "Conspirator" as well, and these roles suit him. Hepburn once said that Spencer Tracy made her seem very feminine; Taylor does too.

    I have to add that I did find the casting quite odd but inspired, with Hepburn and Mitchum cast against type, and Hepburn paired with Taylor. I wish we had seen more of this in Hollywood.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Robert Taylor came back from the war and this was his first film. He was delighted to work with Kathryn Hepburn, whom he had great respect for. She considered him to be a much underrated actor, with more talent than he was given credit for. He proves it in the film about a wealthy industrialist, who has a mysterious past and a missing brother, played by a young Robert Mitchum. He meets Ann (Hepburn) and marries her in a whirlwind. She is so in love that she doesn't see some of the strange goings on. He skulks around, goes away on strange trips, and becomes irrational when anyone speaks of his brother. He suspects that she is falling in love with Michael (Mitchum) even though she never met him. What she finds is that Alan is really a psychopath and may even be a murderer. He follows her, accuses her, yells at her, and tells her that if she leaves him he will kill her. She runs, he chases her on horseback, and in the end, as he tries to kill her, his horse tramples him to death, leaving her to find a new life with the brother. Robert Taylor was always at his best as the bad guy. The studio system never used him well, and put him in a lot of bad films. His talent was generally wasted, what a shame. Vincent Minnelli used him and crafted the part so that Taylor could show a different side, not the pretty boy that he was always hounded by. Wonderful use of shadows and black and white photography. A must see.
  • The first time I saw undercurrent, I was as disturbed as everyone else by the soporific pacing.

    Having just seen it for the second time, I have to say that there is much detail to enjoy. As in most Minnelli pictures, I enjoyed the awkward party scenes, in which elegant extras enjoy themselves while the principals cringe.

    Katharine Hepburn is in her "insecure" mode, like in Summertime, and she is very good. The role would have been more natural for, say, Jeanne Crain.

    Most enjoyable is Jayne Meadows, as a cold fish you can't quite figure out. She is incredibly beautiful in the ladies'lounge scene. Both her scenes with Hepbburn crackle with 1940s psychological intensity.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    This goes down like a milkshake and an order of fries---one of those guilty pleasures from MGM that has no nutritional value, but is so glossy that it's irresistible. In this melodrama/suspenser, Hepburn is in training for her 1950's lovelorn-spinster parts in "The Rainmaker" and "Summertime." She is so basically no-nonsense and self-sufficient that it's a little hard to buy her as the threatened bride, but she's enjoyable all the same. It's fun to see how the screenplay sets up the roadsigns to Murderous Husband.

    What a treat to see Kathryn Card AND Marjorie Main, in the same movie--they could almost be twin crusty ladies. Edmund Gwenn is back in a return engagement as Hepburn's father, some 11 years after he played the part in "Sylvia Scarlett." The two Roberts are improbable brothers, and there is no chemistry between either of them and Hepburn, but they have nice resonant voices. At only 36, Taylor looks tired--he was probably a heavy smoker. When Mitchum gives his speech about the ocean's dangerous "undercurrent," you almost expect to hear trumpets underscoring the word, which is part of the fun.
  • nycritic16 May 2006
    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.
  • Undercurrent (1946)

    Melodrama with Katherine Hepburn instead of Bette Davis or Joan Crawford?

    Yes. And it works, though differently. Hepburn rules the movie, for sure, and she covers some range from sweet daughter of a scientist to a rich man's wife losing her innocence to someone who rises up on her own two feet. She's still the classy (or stiff) Hepburn (depending who you ask). I like her, and I liked her in this film a lot.

    The plot uses a whole range of clichés but uses them well. The slight twists to what you expect are never shocking, but they keep you guessing. The second big star, seemingly, is Robert Mitchum, but if you are a fan of his, don't see the movie for his role. It's exceedingly minor. A very strange contract arrangement on that one. When he is there, it's undramatic, though he's in command, of course. The other male lead, Robert Taylor, is his usual reasonable, appropriate self--carefully chosen words to avoid saying a little starchy and ordinaire. One bit part is predictably colorful, Marjorie Main with her earthy comebacks.

    Director Vincente Minnelli is in good form here, actually, and if the movie seems routine, it's the story that holds it back. He has some great photography behind it all (Karl Freund), and the score is unusually effective and beautiful (Herbert Stothart). I wouldn't call it a film noir, though it has shadings of the style and it's from that post war dark period. Instead, it's a noir melodrama. Worth seeing, absolutely, if you like those kinds of films.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    (Some Spoilers)Like the Sword of Damocles Michael Garroway, Robert Mitchum, hovers over the movie "Undercurrent" and is the one person who holds your interest and curiosity to what the film is trying to tell you yet you never see or hear from him until the movie is more then half over.

    Michael's brother Alan, Robert Taylor,has become very wealthy by inventing the Distant Controller which turned the tide for the allies against the Nazis in the Second World War. Handsome charming and rich Alan swept Ann Hamilton,Kathreine Hepburn, off her feet almost as soon as she laid eyes on him when he came to visit her father Prof. "Dink" Hamilton, Edmund Gwenn, to do research in developing the chemical Tetrodyet for the US Army. It wasn't until the wedded couple moved back to Alan's family estate in Middleberg Virgina that Ann began to realize that her husband is keeping a deep dark secret from her:his brother Michael. In Alan's disturbed mind anything that has to do with Michael had to be purged from the Garroway home and Ann starts to wonder if Michael, who she never even knew existed, is even alive.

    The Garroway brothers who started an electronic business before the war in the late 1930's had developed the Distant Controller that made Alan a millionaire. It was just then that his brother Michael disappear from sight. It's the true story behind the Distant Controller that has Alan paralyzed with fear.

    Besides his loyal and faithful employee Warmsley(Clinton Sunberg), who Alan is obviously paying off to keep his mouth shut, Michael is the only one who knows the truth and that knowledge may very well cost him his life. Just before the Distant Controller was put into production Michael went underground over an incident involving his brother and one of the employees of the company Carl Stoyer.

    Trying to put the Stoyer episode out of his mind Michael joined the US Army and spent the next four years overseas almost hoping that he'll end up getting killed thats how traumatized he was over his brother's actions involving Carl Stoyer. Finding out that Alan married Ann Michael resurfaced to warn her what he's really like and what he's capable of doing feeling that sooner or later he'll snap and end up murdering her.

    You could see what an effect of even the mention of Michael's name had on Alan where he changed from his usual bubbly and charming self into a sweating and wide-eyed looking psychotic. Truly in love with Ann and not wanting to lose her Alan at first maligns his brother making up stories about his wild lifestyle and his embezzling the company's funds but Alan's story about his missing brother has a false ring to it and Ann senses it.

    Ann gets conflicting information about Michael from his former acquaintance socialite Sylvia Burton, Jayne Meadows,that hint's to Michael being murdered by Alan and Alan's unsavory business practices. The deadly truth come out about Alan after he's confronted by his brother who tells him that he's not going to let happen to Ann what happened to Stoyler and the only way he can redeem himself is to tell Ann the truth about his dark and mysterious past before he will.

    The movie "Undercurrent" takes a while to build up it's storyline and for a time your left hanging to what the connection between Michael and Cral Stoyer has to do with Alan's success in the world of electronics. As the truth about Alan comes out the more he becomes unhinged and in this case the truth doesn't set him free but frees those, like Ann, from him and the fantasy world that he's meticulously build around himself all these years.
  • The first half-hour is quite well done. Hepburn is excellent as the plain Jane whose brave exterior hides an aching heart. That the sleekly handsome Taylor would suddenly pay her attention is almost too good to be true. For the sheltered girl, it's a Cinderella dream come true. The Washington DC party scenes are particularly well done, just the sort of thing MGM was skilled at, and watching her keep up a brave façade among the snobs while hiding deep insecurity is particularly affecting. But then the movie goes into a dark psychological phase, and it's mainly downhill from then on.

    There's nothing plausible about Ann's (Hepburn) obsession with a mysterious Michael (Mitchum), especially while she's married to Prince Charming Alan (Taylor). It's clearly a plot contrivance and a clumsy one, at that. And catch that sequence where Alan tries to kill Ann while they're on horseback. It's about as poorly staged and edited as any action sequence I've seen. In particular, the progression of backgrounds doesn't come close to matching, creating a rather surreal effect.

    In my book, LB Mayer's MGM was the wrong studio to do this kind of dark material. Too bad Mayer didn't pass the story over to a budget outfit like Columbia or RKO. They would have turned out a fast efficient little noir, which is what the material is really suited for. The trouble here is that MGM casts two of its biggest celebrity stars in the lead. Hepburn and Taylor are fine performers, but their super-star status required lots of screen time, so the movie gets padded to an often redundant two hours, which doesn't help.

    It's also an odd role for Mitchum given his later screen persona. Of course, it's still early in the tough guy's career, and a year away from his defining role as the noirish Jeff in Out of the Past (1947). Still, seeing him in a bland part that any number of lesser actors could have handled takes some getting used to. He's lucky he went from here to the eccentric RKO, while I'm wondering where his career would have gone had he stayed with glamorous MGM.

    All in all, the melodrama itself is a turgid disappointment despite the first half-hour and the amount of talent involved.
  • "Undercurrent" is a surprisingly effective mystery/"chick flick," given elements that could have sunk a lesser effort. For example:

    o Dr. Bangs gives away one of the movie's secrets VERY early in the plot (Before Hepburn marries Taylor) o The behavior of some of the supporting players (for example, Mr. Warmly's first scene) aren't really consistent with the denouement o Katherine Hepburn, at 39, is not an altogether convincing object of desire for her younger costars o While Robert Taylor gives a great performance, the first hints of his instability come too early in the film o Third billed Robert Mitchum has about five minutes screen time and his character has no part of the physical action.

    Perhaps, if it were not for the tremendous skill with which "Undercurrent" has been acted and directed, these apparent shortcomings might have mattered more. Certainly, casting Taylor and Mitchum against type was a stroke of genius. Further, the more one watches Katherine Hepburn's brilliant performance, the more one realizes "Undercurrent" would have been far less successful using a more "age appropriate" actress, unless she were equally skilled (Olivia De Havilland? Joan Bennett?). However, in addition to brilliant acting, Hepburn carries a cool, self-assured demeanor as part of her persona; which makes her apparent helplessness later in the film much more suspenseful, if not downright terrifying. Given that Hepburn is in virtually every scene, it's really Hepburn's movie and she doesn't disappoint.

    I give "Undercurrent" a "7".
  • Warning: Spoilers
    For attractive spinster Katharine Hepburn, the sudden introduction to the handsome Robert Taylor sweeps her off her feet and leads her straight into matrimony. She's got family present. He doesn't. The sudden revelation that he has a brother whom he hates begins to disturb the new Mrs., and several other factors raise suspicions for her that all is not well. A certain concerto Hepburn plays disturbs Taylor violently, and questions about the missing brother's whereabouts raise more suspicions. Others get testy every time that the brother is mentioned, leading to a dark conclusion where having curiosity proves to be quite a dangerous trait.

    All four of the great stars (Hepburn, Crawford, Davis, Stanwyck) went from playing strong will and independent women to ladies in jeopardy, evidence that times were changing post World War II. Hepburn seems to be stretching the truth in trying to make us believe that she could be anything but formidable. Taylor's moody and neurotic, so most of the mystery surrounds him. All of the questions seem to have answers to them on the way when Hepburn meets Robert Mitchum, the caretaker of a woodsy cottage owned by the family, but those answers aren't what she's expected. This is the only film noir that Hepburn ever did, and the only one directed by Vincent Minnelli, an odd choice for this assignment.

    A talented supporting cast includes Edmund Gwenn as Hepburn's lovable father, Marjorie Main as their longtime housekeeper, Clinton Sundberg as the bookkeeper for Taylor's company and Jayne Meadows as a nosy socialite who quizzes Hepburn on Taylor's brother but obviously knows more than she's letting on. "I Love Lucy" fans will be delighted to see Kathryn Card in a showy small part. The film is fairly intriguing, only slightly convoluted and glossy to the max. Hepburn and Taylor lack spark, hence their only film together, although I wouldn't have minded seeing Hepburn paired again with Mitchum, especially in their older years.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Dum de dum...DUM DUM DUM. Da de dum...DUM DUM DUM, Da de da, Da da dah, Dum de da dum da dum!!

    The third movement of Brahm's Third Symphony is quite a moody sound to the listener. It suggests hidden secrets and dangers. And it is fit as the main theme of UNDERCURRENT. This is a very special movie. It was the only time that Katherine Hepburn made a film directed by Vincent Minelli. It was also her only appearance with both Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum (though not, oddly, with Edmund Gwenn - here briefly appearing as her father). And it was one of the few film noir that Hepburn appeared in.

    It is not a great film - the script needed polishing. Taylor's character is dashing and likable for nearly half the movie before cracks begin appearing, dealing with his reputation as an inventor and industrialist, and his relationship with his "blacksheep" brother Mitchum. Either more of the film should have built up his sinister background and character, or it should have appeared later in the film to have more shock effect. Instead it almost makes the film like two movies stuck together. But he does make his villain sufficiently threatening to be interesting to the end.

    Taylor had appeared as villains rarely before this. He had been in one of the "Crime Does Not Pay" shorts in the 1930s, and he had been BILLY THE KID (but like his opposite number at 20th Century Fox, Ty Power as "Jessie James", his character was a hero not a psychotic villain). Unlike Power, Taylor rarely showed any desire to fight for a role, but was willing for Louis Mayer to just hand him the next script. So his getting this role was an unexpected gift. It was his first real villain part.

    Hepburn found working with Taylor fine, but she was less than enamored by Mitchum. Apparently the latter was not unduly impressed by her either. Again it is a weakness in the plot, as the two don't generate any chemistry together. But it is not a fatal problem. The film ends before the flatness of their relationship appears.
  • "Undercurrent" is Vincent Minnelli's first good dramatic thriller. It may appear over the top in some scenes but it was made after WWII. A lost of anxiety and anguish came out after the war. This is Robert Taylor's first movie after he left the service. MGM gave him a terrific leading lady, Katharine Hepburn, who portrays his wife. Mr. Taylor is a glamorous scientist, who is hiding a secret and a brother (Robert Mitchum).

    Mr. Taylor gave three terrific dramatic performances during his career: "Johnny Eager" (1942), "Undercurrent" (1946), and "Above and Beyond" (1952). The first two movies he played the bad guy. In "Above and Beyond", he played the super good tough guy.

    Some people may think this movie is too hysterical, but it is never boring. Ms. Hepburn never looked lovelier. She and Mr. Taylor made a great team. Too bad they never worked again. Ms. Hepburn was very feminine in this movie; thanks to Mr. Taylor, a very masculine guy.
  • bkoganbing28 June 2007
    Robert Taylor, Katherine Hepburn, and Robert Mitchum all star in the MGM melodrama Undercurrent which no one will ever rank at the top 10 for any of these stars.

    Hepburn is reunited with Edmund Gwenn as her father as he was in Sylvia Scarlett. This time they're a more traditional father and daughter than those fugitives on the run in that other film. In Undercurrent he's a college professor and she's his a bit long in the tooth daughter.

    Young millionaire industrialist Robert Taylor gives her a whirlwind courtship and they get married. It looks like Prince Charming has arrived, but Taylor is harboring some deep dark secrets, about a brother he flies off the handle about at the mere mention of his name and about just how he acquired those millions.

    Mitchum is that brother and he only has three scenes of any note, maybe about 15 minutes of the film in total. He and Hepburn did not get along and she publicly disparaged his acting abilities. He in turn thought she was one royal snob. Years later Hepburn did admit to making a mistake about Mitchum, I don't think he ever forgave her.

    One person who she did think highly of was Clinton Sundberg who she saw in a play The Rugged Path on Broadway with Spencer Tracy. She was the one who influenced Louis B. Mayer to sign him and Sundberg acquitted himself well here and in MGM films for the next several years. He plays Taylor's plant manager and has a lot more sinister role than one initially suspects.

    This was Robert Taylor's first film after returning from the Navy in World War II. He acquits himself well, but he and Hepburn just haven't any chemistry at all. His career really doesn't get back on track until Quo Vadis. The leaden story doesn't help either.

    There are some similarities to Hepburn's film with Spencer Tracy, Keeper of the Flame, but that one was far better.

    Do you think this was one Tracy passed on?
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Undercurrent is a prime example of gay director Minnelli's critique of American marriage as a stunting reduction of manhood.

    (As I recall, Robin Wood established this theme primarily in Minnelli's comedies — e.g., Father of the Bride, Meet Me In St Louis, The Long Long Trailer, etc. — and may or may not have examined it in this melodrama. It's decades since I read his work and my library is, alas, too long gone for me to check. So I may be reseeding Robin's field.)

    Katherine Hepburn's Ann is a spinsterish independent with no time for the conventional woman's compulsive search for a husband. She's content to work for her professor father in his home chemistry lab.

    Her father (Edmund Gwenn) is a cuddly, wise, loving man, as handy at the piano as at the test tubes, but he is utterly desexualized by his widowhood and name. She calls him Dinks! Her one suitor is a more paradoxically named prof, the boyish vapid Joseph Bangs (he doesn't).

    Against that backdrop of male impotence stand the powerful two Garroway brothers. Ann is instantly awed by Alan (Robert Taylor), the slick operator who made his fortune on a long- distance control device he supposedly invented in time to win WW II.

    But his reputation and character are both false. He killed the German scientist whose device he then stole. In another manipulation to show his power, Alan lets his new wife Ann embarrass herself in a dowdy dress at a reception for his flashy friends. That's to get their admiration for his ensuing remake.

    Only after marrying Alan does she hear he has a brother Michael (Robert Mitchum). Alan describes Michael as the family black sheep who robbed him to fund his wastrel life, then disappeared. The more he avoids discussing him the more Ann becomes intrigued by him. The two brothers recall the two additives Dinks dropped into the test tube to demonstrate the irreversible effects of love on a placid element. The tube (Ann) bubbleth over.

    Of course Taylor and Mitchum were box office and romance studs. Taylor was the pretty boy, Mitchum the seething danger. Their personae work here. This time it's the pretty boy who proves the murderous threat, the ostensible Bad Boy the hero.

    Ann becomes intrigued by what she hears about the mysteriously disappeared Michael. When she collects his rebound book of poems she finds a kindred spirit she initially thinks is her Alan — which ignites his anger and fear. When she visits Michael's ranch (now Alan's), she finds Michael's "home" profoundly more comforting than Alan's. To mislead her, Alan claims his mother, not Michael, played the Brahms she loves — and he hates. That music becomes the signature of Michael's return and their union.

    Both brothers are "undercurrents," Michael in his sensitive, creative and principled character, Alan by his willingness to kill.

    The film's major "undercurrent" is the irony that Ann married a fake but thereby finds her true love. She finds it by going beyond the structure — and strictures — of her marriage. The sensitive idealist and firmly individualistic man has no space in this film's institution of marriage. As the parties reveal, this world is gaudily artificial and ritualized, a glib dance of power. Michael spurned Sylvia's love because he met her through Alan and couldn't undermine him. So, too, he later suppresses his attraction to Ann.

    Michael disappeared because he couldn't bear the burden of bis brother's guilt — nor to betray him. He hoped the war would end his dilemma but he survived. Meeting Ann rouses him to confront him to save her. As nature overrules man's fragile and arbitrary social constructions, the wild horse stops Alan's attack on Ann and the truly civilized outsider Michael fulfills her.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    There's something wrong with this film.

    I've read several professional reviews of this film, and several try to liken it to Hitchcock's "Suspicion". This is a faulty comparison, in my view. Several reviews also pointed out that this was the only film noir film Katherine Hepburn ever appeared in. Well, although it was a very different plot, it somehow reminded me of the Hepburn/Tracy film "Keep Of The Flame" (an oddball favorite of mine).

    The film starts out innocently enough, with Katherine Hepburn living with her scientist-father (Edmund Gwenn), and then being swept off her feet by the suave businessman (Robert Taylor) who is buying her father's scientific discovery. They marry, she is pushed into the world of Washington and big business, becomes rather sophisticated, but sense something wrong with the story of her husband's strained relationship with his brother (Robert Mitchum, who you don't see in the film until about halfway through). Hepburn becomes more and more suspicious of her husband, coming to the conclusion that perhaps he did murder his brother. Desperate to hold his marriage together, Taylor becomes (too) suddenly threatening, and attempts to kill his wife. This seems a little implausible, since although he was moody about his brother, he never appeared to be mentally ill. There's a great scene in the film where Taylor attempts to force his wife -- on horseback -- off a mountain cliff (and there are no mountains in Middleburg, Virginia where this portion of the film supposedly takes place...they might better have placed it in Winchester, further to the west). And who comes to Hepburn's rescue? No, not whom you expect! :-) In the end the bad guy'll have to watch the film to see who the bad brother really is -- Mitchum or Taylor.

    But as I said, there is still something not quite right with this film, yet I can't put my finger on it. I'm not saying it's a bad film. It's worth watching...once...for the performance of Hepburn, which is quite good. Taylor does well here, also, despite his sudden onset on mental illness. And Mitchum is cast in a different light than we often expect. Yes, watch it, but you may not want to put this on your DVD shelf.

    Postscript: 9 years later and I just watched this film again...quite by accident. It's worse than I remember. The first two-thirds of the film are quite intriguing. But the climax of the film just plain bizarre. Vincente Minelli, the director, should have stuck with musicals.
  • Warning: Spoilers
    Take a few dark and stormy nights, fog coming in from the coast, obsession and doubt, two brothers who have a mysterious connection based on hatred, a suspicious disappearance, a shoe in the night silently grinding out a glowing cigarette butt, and, finally, a tremulous heroine who finds herself threatened as much by her own doubts as by one -- but which one? -- of the men around her. Sounds like we might have a good 80 minute noir. Instead, under the direction of Vincente Minnelli and with two A-list leads, Katharine Hepburn and Robert Taylor, Undercurrent becomes a nearly two-hour matinée melodrama, a long slog of threatening angst amidst the perfectly groomed, coifed and dressed cast. When you glance at your watch half-way through a movie and with a sinking heart see that you have another hour to go, both you and the movie probably have problems.

    Minnelli, in one of his earliest non-musical movies, doesn't lay on the rococo hothouse approach as heavily as he later was known to do. Still, what is basically a simple story of greed, murder and obsession is turned into an endless Katharine Hepburn vehicle. Hepburn shows us in carefully lit close-ups how to demonstrate fear, love, anxiety, giddiness, happiness, doubt, suspicion and terror. Robert Taylor is more or less along for the ride.

    Hepburn starts the movie as the tomboyish Ann Hamilton, an energetic young woman in slacks who helps her father with his inventions. Their housekeeper is determined to get her married. When Dr. Hamilton decides to sell an important formula to Alan Garroway (Robert Taylor), it's love at first sight. Garroway is the smooth, handsome, dynamic inventor of the Garroway Distance Controller, which was vital in the war, and which has turned him into a hard-charging millionaire manufacturer. He's a captain of industry, as one of his many Washington friends says. Ann Hamilton, now Ann Garroway, may still be a bit of the tomboy, but her husband shows her how to dress and how to be a successful social hostess for all those Congressmen and judges her husband knows. She learns fast and eagerly. They both are obviously and blissfully in love.

    But wait. The canker is about to gnaw. Ann realizes she knows nothing about her husband's family. None of his employees or friends seem inclined to talk about them to her. When she learns bit by bit that Alan's mother died in the old family home in Middleburg while seated at the piano, or that he has a brother, Michael, who has disappeared, Alan becomes very quiet...and sometimes goes into a rage. He always apologizes. But wait once more. Did his mother really play the piano? Didn't she really die in bed? Wasn't Michael caught taking money from the family firm and Alan sent him away? All this plays out against the exquisite hotel suites, the manicured country home in Middleburg with the horse stable and the tasteful ranch house by the sea. Everyone in the movie except employees are dressed to the nines. There are exclusive cocktail parties and intimate dinners for twenty. Even in a black- and-white movie, Minnelli can't help but give us dining tables filled with crystal and china, tasteful and elegant furniture and lots of gowns.

    By the end of the movie, when all is finally known, when Ann on horseback is chased along a high, extremely well-designed mountain trail by the bad guy on another horse, when she is threatened with death by boulder and her pursuer finally meets death by horse, it's a relief. Even Robert Mitchum, who plays Michael, is unable to bring much tension to the movie. What might have been in lesser hands a taut little B-movie, instead with the A list is just an overwrought melodrama, too big for its bones.
  • UNDERCURRENT most certainly isn't a typical Katharine Hepburn film. In between films with Spencer Tracy, she tries her hand at a suspense thriller, playing the supposedly dowdy Ann Hamilton, an apparently confirmed spinster who quickly finds herself in love and married to Alan Garroway (Robert Taylor), a rich scientist who is hiding a far greater and darker secret than she could ever have imagined. It isn't long before Ann the gregarious tomboy becomes the cookie-cutter-perfect Mrs Alan Garroway... except for one thing. She just can't seem to shake off that darker, malevolent undercurrent of obsession and hate she senses in her husband. Nor can she ignore the shadow of her brother-in-law Michael Garroway (Robert Mitchum), whom she's never met but has been told so much about. As Alan's apparent normalcy begins to fall away before Ann's eyes, the audience also realises that his deadly obsession with his brother Michael has shifted onto Ann. Now that Alan has staked his possessive claim on her, can Ann free herself from his love for her... and more importantly, her own love for him?

    Sounds good? Well, the premise is certainly there. And you've got to admire what must have started out as a far more ambitious project altogether. You've got at least four powerhouses in this film--Hepburn, the Roberts Taylor and Mitchum, and the direction of Vincente Minelli. Unfortunately, UNDERCURRENT only makes an adequate attempt at putting this story together on the screen. There are moments and characters in the film that had so much potential, an example being the mysterious figure of Mother Garroway, who seems as sinister as either of her sons, and yet is quickly forgotten once she seems redundant to the plot. But she isn't, really--the circumstances of her death are just as intriguing as those surrounding Michael's death/disappearance... and yet not picked up on. Nor is the suggestion that Michael is as much Ann's obsession as Ann is Alan's expanded upon.

    While Minelli is brilliant in capturing the rhythm and mood of a scene when it comes to colourful MGM musicals, he only manages to create a mediocre level of suspense in this film--there are no heart-pounding moments in UNDERCURRENT; when the lights go out as Ann is stuck in the closet, one only feels annoyed and mildly curious at the completely black screen. There's hardly any pace to it either, since the supposedly climactic ending only comes off rather half-hearted and a bit lame with the less-than-expert editing between Taylor's face and Hepburn's reactions. And yet Minelli is nothing if not an accomplished director; some shots are beautifully dark and capture the ambiguous relationship of Alan and Ann quite well.

    Similarly, the performances in this film showcase both its good points and its problems. Starting with the two Roberts: Robert Taylor makes a commendable effort to transform Alan into something remotely human, and almost succeeds. He mostly underplays his part, except for one great scene when he truly goes all out to look deranged, and that really helps. Alan *is* supposed to be perfectly normal... at least on the outside. The trouble with Taylor is that his underplaying isn't as skilful as, for example, Spencer Tracy's--Taylor tends to fade into a monotone, making it just the kind of under-acting performance that would galvanize La Hepburn into *over*-acting to fill up a scene. As for Robert Mitchum: he's hardly onscreen enough to warrant much of a review. Still, considering that he's playing the pivotal role of the mysterious, back-from-the-dead brother of Alan Garroway, Mitchum and his character mostly look stoned beyond caring about what's happening around them. Shame.

    As for Ms. Hepburn: although this isn't usually her film genre of choice (film noir is really something one doesn't expect Hepburn's name to ever be associated with), she turns in quite a credible performance. Ann Hamilton starts out as the giddy independent gal in love, a prototype from Hepburn's romantic comedies, but also progresses (or should that be degenerates?) into a woman haunted by fear and obsession--that of her husband's, surely... but possibly her own as well. Even a Hepburn fan must admit that she has a tendency to mug, to overact to fill a perceived void, and unless reined in by a director or co-star, tends to overpower everything around her through sheer force of will (and personality). Mercifully, this only happens in the first few scenes when Ann is still the happy independent girl she is before meeting and marrying Alan--odd that it should happen with a type of character Hepburn has arguably played so many times before. If it hasn't already been made clear, in this film Hepburn is in fact at her best when she plays the scenes with Ann constantly doubting her husband, worrying at his family mystery as a dog would a bone. She portrays the right level of frenzy, of worry, of muted suspicion and unspoken doubt. Her performance on this occasion suggests that there is much more to Hepburn as an actress than simply 'playing herself', although this isn't realised immediately after UNDERCURRENT which, as I gather, flopped rather mightily at the box office. She returns to romantic comedies to lick her wounds for a decade or so, forestalling the revelation of her potential as a dramatic actress to later in her career. The only problems this character gives her are when Ann is called on to be truly helpless--two occasions on which histrionics have been deemed necessary. Both times, when she has to cry but most especially when she has to scream, Hepburn fares rather badly. Other than that, she turns in a performance that does manage to rein the largely ordinary bits of the film together.

    All in all, it's rather a shame that UNDERCURRENT doesn't make full use of the considerable talent at its disposal. Minelli and the writers don't see the potential in the script and characters, nor, I suspect, does Minelli know just how to handle Hepburn to draw a more rounded performance from her. UNDERCURRENT isn't a bad piece of film-making or story-telling, but it is far from a great one. Unfortunately, considering the names involved in this production, adequacy is the last thing they should have achieved in making this film.
  • scvg18 January 2010
    Why does this film have a 6.3? Even the most cruel critic would give it a higher grade. There are many reasons why it should have, at least, a 7.

    To start with, the performances are incredible. There are some people here who criticize K. Hepburn's performance, when it is very good, very funny at the start and increasingly good as the film develops. Robert Taylor is absolutely excellent. Robert Mitchum doesn't appear in much of the film, but he acts his part perfectly.

    This film is directed by a great director, Vincente Minelli, who never disappoints and gives the film a quick, captivating pace. This film has a lot in common with "Rebecca", which is only a little better. All in all, a film well worth watching.
  • A masterful exercise in sustained suspense, Katherine Hepburn's perfect marriage soon becomes shrouded with sinister shadows. The playing from the cast really is excellent on every level - Robert Taylor is fantastic as the psychotic husband, Robert Mitchum the epitome of restraint and charm, but there's no denying this is Katherine Hepburn's movie. And she is magnetic, she conveys a toughness of character but a sensitivity which radiates. And at 39 she's looking fantastic. Many new directors would be well advised to watch this, as a lesson in how to make a great movie!
  • "Undercurrent" features a top-notch cast of wonderful actors who might've been assembled for the perfect drawing-room comedy. Alas, they are pretty much wasted on a 'woman's view' potboiler--and a paper-thin one at that. Katharine Hepburn is indeed radiant as a tomboy/old maid who finally marries, but her husband is deeply disturbed and harboring dark family secrets. Director Vincente Minnelli has absolutely no idea how to mount this outlandish plot, concocted by Edward Chodorov from a story by Thelma Strabel, and the friendly, first-rate cast (including Robert Taylor, Robert Mitchum and Edmund Gwenn) is left treading in murky waters. ** from ****
  • MartinHafer8 June 2010
    Warning: Spoilers
    Considering that this is a glossy MGM production starring Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor and Robert Mitchum, it's certainly well worth watching as it can't help but be very good. However, the film, at times, seems a bit hard to believe. If you can turn off that nagging voice that questions a few directions the plot takes, then you're bound to really enjoy this film. Plus, even with a few minor plot problems, it's a good picture.

    The film begins with Hepburn playing her father's assistant and caretaker. She's a bit shy around men and a little insecure. So, when a rich and immensely successful man (Taylor) falls for her, she keeps doubting herself and thinks he could have chosen better. But, during all of the first half of the film, he seems like an almost perfect husband--caring and kind. However, slowly through the course of the movie, he shows hints that he isn't as sweet and good as he's appeared.

    The first time you see this dark side of Taylor is when his estranged brother (Mitchum) is mentioned. When Hepburn asks him innocent questions about him, Taylor oddly lashes out at her. And, the more he reacts this way, the more curious she becomes--wondering what happened between them. There is MUCH more to the story than this...and it gets very, very dark in the last moments of the film. However, I don't want to say more--it would spoil the film.

    The best thing about this movie is the evocative mood throughout. The combination of excellent direction, music and cinematography makes for a very brooding film--a mood that is actually better than the sum of all its parts. Plus, if you are a curious psychology major, you may enjoy seeing Taylor's character who appears to be a combination of someone dealing with Paranoid Schizophrenia and an Antisocial Personality Disorder. This means that while he may act very normal almost all the time, there is an undercurrent of insanity and persecution. And, since he has a lack of conscience, he is capable of doing anything if he thinks he can get away with it! A scary combination and a nice film--even though, occasionally, it seems a tad overdone.

    By the way, at one point in the film, Hepburn is supposed to be right on the Virginia coastline. However, it's obviously NOT Virginia to anyone who knows the state--as the cliffs and rocky shoreline are obviously on the West Coast.
  • The casting (and direction) in Undercurrent is more insipid than inspired in this noir clunker that fails from the outset to get off the ground. Robert Taylor's wooden style poses a roadblock almost immediately for the highly affected Kate Hepburn and it's bad chemistry from the outset.

    Naive and innocent Ann Hamilton (Hepburn) falls for handsome airplane manufacturer Alan Garroway (Taylor) and rushes to the altar with him. She soon finds out there is a lot she does not know about him. As Alan becomes more remote she delves further into the murky past and Ann soon finds herself living a nightmare instead of the American dream.

    Undercurrent resembles a few Hitchcock plots but Vincent Minnelli rapidly establishes he is no master of suspense. Hepburn is no shrinking violet and she is a hard sell for a character more suited to the reticent styles of Teresa Wright or Joan Fontaine. Minnelli never really succeeds in getting Kate to defer in desperate fashion to Taylor's limited abilities as an actor. Her attempts come across as silent Gish while Taylor's wide descent into madness takes on restrained Bela Lugosi. Robert Mitchum completes the miscasting as the sensitive brother. Talk about piling on.

    Cinematographer Karl Freund provides some highly stylized noir interiors but Minnelli and cast utilize the atmospherics meekly and the tension remains tepid. With Minnelli far from his forte (musicals) and Hepburn's victim role fitting her like a bad suit Undercurrent drowns all involved.
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