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Friday, 13 November 2015

Classic Film Review: Angel Face (1952)

Angel Face stars Robert Mitchum as ambulance driver Frank Jessup who becomes embroiled in the schemes of Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) after being called out to a report of gas in her stepmother's room. Mrs Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil) is wealthy and supports her stepdaughter and novelist husband Charles (Herbert Marshall) but when Frank's employed as Tremayne family chauffeur, he really doesn't know what he's getting involved in. The cast also includes Mona Freeman and Leon Ames.

From the beginning, this is an atmospheric film and I enjoyed it much more than I expected to. My attitude towards Robert Mitchum swings between love and hate (as other film reviews on this blog attest) but in roles where his usual moody and impassive demeanour work with the plot he excels. Angel Face is one of those films. You never quite know what Frank's thinking and that adds an extra layer to the film. Similarly, Jean Simmons plays the inscrutable Diane to perfection. The shock of the plot comes not from her intentions towards her stepmother but the unexpected consequences.

This one didn't progress as I thought it would, clipping along faster than I'd expected and throwing up a couple of surprises along the way. It was difficult to care about Frank and Diane but that was rather the point and, unlike most films of this ilk, that fed into my enjoyment.

There are some memorable moments, which I won't ruin for you, but I ultimately enjoyed this film a fair bit. Although there isn't exceptional chemistry between the leads, there's a good deal of manipulative chemistry and that's more useful in a film like this. As for the ending... Well, I wouldn't have wanted anything else.


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