29 March 2006 | krorie
Who is the unsuspected?
To answer the question, "Who is the unsuspected?" the viewer must wait until the very end of the film. In reality, the unsuspected is revealed toward the beginning of the movie. So though there aren't any real surprises--this is not a mystery--there is a big helping of suspense and thrills along the way. The viewer also gets a glimpse of old time radio just before television took over. Victor "Grandi" Grandison (Claude Rains) is a big time radio personality whose main claim to fame is telling creepy, murder stories, read from a script he helped write, to a large radio audience. Several scenes take place during the broadcast inside the radio studio. The viewer gets to see all the hand signals and day to day activities involved in a live broadcast in those days. Many radio shows were transcribed (recorded on huge record discs) both for posterity and for possible re-broadcasts. Grandi makes these for nefarious purposes also. How they are made is shown in great detail.
With lines such as "We missed you while you were dead," this is one of the best film noir screenplays of the 1940's. One of the great femme fatales of the era, Audrey Totter as Althea Keane, gets some of the wittiest lines, which she delivers with élan. So listen carefully when she speaks. She dominates every scene she's in. The only one in the cast who comes close to her acting talents is Claude Rains. In some ways his part closely resembles the character he played the year before in the Hitchcock classic "Notorious," the master spy Alexander Sebastian. While Althea's husband, the tipsy Oliver (Hurd Hatfield), also shines, his role is fairly cut and dried with only brief appearances. The others in the cast are more than adequate, in particular Jack Lambert as Mr. Press, a violent, shady character who is blackmailed into doing dirty work for Grandi.
Michael Curtiz knowingly directs in noir fashion with crisp black and white photography surrounded by rainy, spooky nights making the audience believe that danger lurks in the shadows. Curtiz makes sure the film is fast-paced. There is even an exciting chase at the end involving Jack Lambert recklessly driving through traffic in a pickup truck, attempting to destroy evidence at the city dump before the motorcycle cops catch up with him.
The music blends in with the story. For example, when Grandi comes home unsuspected, his birthday party is in full swing. The piano man fills the room with "Someone To Watch Over Me." Grandi is unnerved by the tune and makes a snide remark to Matilda Frazier (Joan Caulfield) to the effect that he would like to fire the piano player. Neglected for years, critics and noir fans are just now discovering this intriguing movie.