June 28, 2023

ANGEL FACE: Mitchum Makes the Movie

ANGEL FACE (Blu-ray)
1952 / 92 min
Review by Mr. Paws😽

Of course, any film noir starring Robert Mitchum is worth our time. While Angel Face doesn’t rank up there with such classics as Out of the Past, it does provide another showcase for his inherent coolness.

Mitchum plays Frank Jessup, an ordinary guy who drives an ambulance while saving up to open his own garage. His life changes after meeting Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons), a beautiful but emotionally unstable young woman who loves her father but hates her stepmother (who nearly died from a recent “gas leak”). Diane insinuates herself on Frank’s life, driving a wedge between he and girlfriend Mary (Mona Freeman).

But Frank’s been around the block a few times. He suspects she wants to get rid of her stepmom, even if it means murder, and wants no part of such plans. But even though he never entirely trusts her, Frank and Diane eventually plan to run away together, at least until her dad and stepmom are killed when their car zooms off a cliff. Diane claims she acted alone, but police suspect Frank showed how to tamper with the car. At this point, the viewer isn’t sure what to make of Diane. Is she manipulating Frank in classic femme fatale fashion, is she crazy-in-love with him...or simply crazy?

Guilty of hunk driving.
The narrative suddenly turns into an odd (and implausible) courtroom drama, with Mitchum more or less regulated to a casual observer. Before the two are put on trial, Diane’s lawyer suggests they get married because juries are reluctant to convict young newlyweds. As I write this review, I’m still trying to come to terms with how such a tactic would work. Still, it sets up a final act and somewhat shocking conclusion that ultimately saves the film.

The story works best when focused squarely on Frank and Diane’s tumultuous relationship. Mitchum instills Frank with cool stoicism, while Simmons does a great job portraying Diane as someone far more dangerous than she initially appears. If it weren’t for the comparatively silly (and sorta dull) middle act, Angel Face could’ve been a film noir classic. Instead, it’s just a decent thriller with solid performances.


AUDIO COMMENTARY - By the one-and-only Eddie Muller.

No comments: