5 May 2002 | bmacv
Even Lupino can't salvage lugubrious melodrama
The first clue that there's something seriously out of kilter in Irving Rapper's Strange Intruder is that Ida Lupino takes second billing to Edmund Purdom. Looking like an unsettling cross between Rock Hudson and Gregory Peck (with Ronald Coleman's plummy voice thrown in), this British bore soon wore out his Hollywood welcome and spent the bulk of his career in Italian cheapies.
The movie opens with a grim and lengthy prologue in a Korean prisoner-of-war camp, where Purdom watches his best buddy die at the hands of the sadistic guards. Then we're whisked to a veterans' hospital stateside, where he's being released, the staff there having done `all we can do.' It transpires that Purdom has gone loony as a June bug. He sets off to visit the family of his dead friend, details of whose life he has digested as though it were his own.
He shows up in a fantasy version of small-town life in midcentury, where every middle-class household boasts a live-in cook. Grey-haired mom, wheelchair-bound pop and pert little Sis welcome him into their lives as though he were their returning son. But he has bigger fish to fry. The delusionary voices in his head are telling him to kill his buddy's kids in order to save them from their slut of a mother (Lupino).
Lupino (you see) fell victim to a suave French gigolo. They had an affair, which Lupino divulged in the last letter her husband, off saving Asia from Communism, received. And now he's blackmailing her...
To note that this movie echoes the previous year's Night of the Hunter would be to extend it, inadvertently, undeserved praise. Heavy-handed and implausible, it rings false from first frame to last. And here's the final nail in the coffin: Even Lupino can't save it.