USA, Anatole Litvak (1948)
Barbara Stanwyck gives a great borderline-over-the-top performance, all from the comfort of her bed, in this classic film noir thriller. She earned an Oscar nomination as Leona Stevenson, a needy, bedridden wife who slowly edges into hysteria. When Leona’s phone line is crossed with another, she overhears a plot to murder a woman at midnight and soon comes to believe that she’s the intended victim. Burt Lancaster is the husband trapped in a loveless marriage to a spoiled woman and her father’s fortune, whose attempt to break free sets the course of events in action.
If it isn’t actually shot in real time (I’d have to watch it again to be sure) the film feels like it is—Leona has just an hour and a half to put the pieces together and prevent (her?) murder. Her only lifeline is the telephone. It’s a clever idea (as developed originally from the radio play starring Agnes Moorehead) to use “technology” this way in a thriller of this period. And it’s clever how the story and the direction open the movie up beyond the four walls of Leona’s penthouse apartment.
Here’s the Gist: This thriller is worth watching for the last scene alone and it’s memorably delivered final line. [***1/2]