16 March 2002 | bmacv
Lupino imperiled, Duff to rescue: Above-average thriller
We first hear Ida Lupino's voice, in sepulchral voice-over, as we watch the wreck of a car that has plummeted over a bridge in North Carolina. "That's my body they're looking for..." she informs us. She's having a bad year; her father has died suddenly in an "accident" in the mill he owned and she up and married its general manager (Steven McNally), whom her father loathed (with reason: McNally killed him). On her wedding night she learned the truth about McNally (who seemed to specialize in deranged, controlling husbands, as in Make Haste to Live), and, trying to flee, found herself in a vehicle which he had rendered brakeless.
She's presumed dead, leaving McNally to inherit the mill (his plan all along), but just to be sure he puts out a reward for finding her. And Howard Duff, a newsstand clerk at a bus station in a nearby town, spots her, now blonde and on the lam. They strike a few sparks, but McNally convinces Duff that Lupino is emotionally disturbed, insuring that she'll be institutionalized and under his thumb.
All in all, Woman in Hiding's title says it all: It's a fairly standard woman-in-distress picture, but one with a superior cast. In addition to the tried-and-true team of Lupino and Duff (they were married at te time), Peggy Dow invests her few brief scenes as a ruthless rival for McNally's attention with memorable flair. The film looks good, too, especially in the darkened mill at the conclusion -- a conclusion which anticipates by a couple of years that of Sudden Fear, in which Joan Crawford fends of a homicidal busband who's got a bad girl on the side. Woman in Hiding is no masterpiece, nor is it one of Lupino's best performances, but it's well made, swift and satisfying.