After almost a month of happy films, I would have glossed over this one for a more frolicky movie, if not for the gripping story and taut developments. The performances, especially of the lead actress, are stupendous. In fact, there are times when you would want to side with her. She has her reasons for doing whatever she does. But after all, she is sick in the mind. And no matter what, this illness cannot be justified.
Novelist Richard Harland (Cornel Wilde) meets socialite Ellen Berent (Gene Tierney) while on a train to a ranch town where he is going to be with his lawyer friend. He is struck by her beauty and elegance. Yes, she is quite an eyeful. Ellen too, remarks that he looks so much like her late father who she loved very much. It appears that Ellen and her mother (Mary Philips), with her foster sister Ruth (Jeanne Crain) is on their way to fulfill the last rites of Mr Berent. Ellen sticks to Richard from this day forth. Even though we see Ruth being affected by the charms of Richard, Ellen obviously does not let anywhere go near him. Yes, she is obsessive, and how!
But while Ellen thinks Richard will be all hers now, she is in for several surprises. They both cancel their honeymoon to meet and stay close to Danny, Richard's disabled brother who he loves dearly. Initially Ellen is caring towards the teenager but soon he appears to be a thorn. Richard is always spending time with Danny. Moments of intimacy between the couple are broken because of Danny and Ellen does not like it at all. She urges Danny doctor to tell Richard that Danny cannot come with them to Back of the Moon, an idyllic location where Richard sits and writes his books, But the doctor refuses to be party to this wrong.
But Ellen turns nasty after this. In a moment of indiscretion she instigates the drowning of Danny only because she thinks that now she will have Richard all to herself. But murder bring love? No. Richard is a changed man when he loses his brother and Ellen too goes to extreme brinks to get him back.
And even after all this when Richard distances himself from her, she does something that no one could think of...
I love so many scenes in the film. Like the one where Ellen wins the swimming challenge against two young boys and Richard's lawyer friend remarks, "Ellen always wins." Yes, she is a winner who does not know how to embrace defeat. Another scene is fabulous. Ellen hates herself when she becomes pregnant. For her, the disfiguring of her body is akin to Richard not loving her anymore because he is not attracted to her beauty. Distorted mentality! The scene that follows the one announcing her miscarriage shows her enjoy a swim in the sea. She is back to her shapely self and is confident again. She feels no remorse or sadness for her lost child. She is busy gallivanting in the sun and with a cool casual air going about her daily life. Stark but awesomely depicted.
The director has chosen some awesome locations for the filming of this 1945 noir drama. I love the clothes the women wear and the elegance with which they carry themselves. While Wilde is lukewarm in his performance (I'm quite angry with him for not being passionate enough with his wife!), I liked Crain for her earnest and sincere character. She is a pretty girl and she does play her part very well.