The Sign of the Ram (1948)

Approved   |    |  Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller

The Sign of the Ram (1948) Poster

A jealous, manipulative stepmother confined to a wheelchair interferes with her stepchildren's romances so that they will not get married and leave home.


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23 September 2007 | Handlinghandel
| I'd heard this called a film noir. But ...
... It's a soap opera! Or at least, it's a melodrama. I can picture Bette Davis playing the Susan Peters part. It really isn't far from the territory of "The Little Foxes." Note: My hat is off to Ms. Peters for having undertaken a role in which her actual wheelchair plays a central part.

John Sturges did direct some excellent films noir a bit later. He gave us one of the very darkest: "The People Against O'Hara." And the cinematographer, Burnett Guffey was no stranger to the genre, either. Indeed, he was later to win an Oscar for a sort-of noir, "Bonnie and Clyde." (The recurring shots here of waves crashing on rocks prefigures the movie for which he won his other Oscar, "From Here To Eternity," and its most famous scene.) I (myself born under the sign of the ram, for the record) didn't find the movie especially convincing. For example, the lovely Phyllis Thaxter's character is really nothing more than a plot device.

Peters does a decent job. Of course one has to feel empathy for her situation. As a disabled person myself -- and one born under the sign of the ram,I am very much in favor of disabled actors getting roles. She may be the only actress to get billing above the title, and billing as Miss Susan Peters, no less, who has performed in a wheelchair to which she is actually confined. Much credit must be given to her.

The other performers range from OK to good (with the exception of Dame May Witty, who is as always excellent.) They seem somewhat at a loss here.

It has the potential of being like "Ivy," a well regarded and very good Joan Fontaine movie. It's also like Ms. Fontaine's "Born To Be Bad." (Or vice-versa, as that film came a few years later.) But it's more a women's picture. And that was hardly John Sturges's fare.

I realize I have written mostly about what it is isn't. But what it is is terribly disappointing and memorable only for Ms. Peters's brave performance as a disabled person.

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