Just check out that technicolour movie poster! Another thing the 1940’s smashed the shit out of (in the best possible way).
Following a pretty shitty week last week, Jill picked this Noir classic because it just sort of made sense. And believe me, it was a real treat for the end of a super stressful weekend for me.
Incidentally, consider this #3 in our Smoking Movies segment.
I actually got out of the house and had lunch with my bestie on Sunday and she reaffirmed that my self-doubt is irrational for the most part. I know she’s right, as is my lovely husband, so I’m going to try to chill the fuck out from now on. And certainly for the rest of the evening.
Things are what they are and you can only try your best. God, I hope next week is better for everyone, it seemed to be universally crap.
But onto this brilliant movie. As always, beware the *spoilers* trap.
IMDB Synopsis: A police detective falls in love with the woman whose murder he is investigating.
We open with a fucking fabulous line: “I shall never forget the weekend Laura died…” and I swear, all movies going forward should begin that way. Many of the good ones do (see American Beauty (1999) – “I had always heard your entire life flashes in front of your eyes the second before you die…”).
Our narrator is one Waldo Lydecker, sassy newspaper columnist and BFF of recently slain Laura Hunt. He is about to be interviewed by Mark McPherson, hard-boiled detective and reluctant hero of the streets, who’s popped by to cross him off a list of suspects. Waldo is in the bath for the duration of the interview but that’s because this guy give zero fucks. He’s working away on his typewriter which in my eyes automatically tip taps him straight onto my list of most fabulous film characters of all time.
McPherson questions him for a bit and this conversation is dripping with 40’s bants. Waldo is no slow poke and they talk about Laura at some length. Here we fall into a flashback about how the two besties met.
I’ll try and keep it short, because you must watch, but Laura first meets Waldo when she’s young and inexperienced, yet plucky. She sasses him out when he’s rude to her in a restaurant and he proceeds to win her back because it’s a typical meet cute and that’s how they work. They’re platonic mates but Waldo helps her rise through the ranks to further her career by enjoying his own social connections and fame. Laura is brilliant in her own right but what does it hurt to get a little leg up really? Nothing, I say.
Waldo even starts to dress Laura, and influences her outer appearance which would be sort of frustrating if he didn’t do it so well. Basically, her entire wardrobe is TO DIE and she never puts a foot wrong sartorially. She’s also nice and everyone loves her, the bitch.
But Waldo is unimpressed when Laura meets Shelby Carpenter, a former trust-fund baby now brasic layabout (and kept man). In the flashback, Waldo proceeds to tell McPherson about Laura’s history of poorly chosen suitors (who does’t have that list?) and references an artist she’d previously fallen for, who he’d ruined in the rags just to halt the romance.
Waldo is a jealous toad, y’all. And he doesn’t like Shelby one bit. Incidentally, it took me 1hr 11mins to work out that Shelby is motherf**king VINCENT PRICE. I mean, hello – cast in the stud-muffin role? Who knew he was so tall?! (Not *this guy*).
Shelby, very oddly, is being ‘kept’ by Laura’s aunt Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson), who totally loves him. She bankrolls his lifestyle while he pursues Laura’s hand in marriage because she’s a better match (e.g. richer, I guess) and he’s a total cad.
Waldo does what every rational best friend (who’s in love with said BF) does and hires a Private Dick (oo-er) to dig up some dirt on Shelby, which isn’t hard because he soon finds out that he’s been slipping it to a model called Dianne Redfernand – in addition to Aunt Ann!
Waldo takes great delight in winding Laura up about this as you can imagine and it all looks pretty bad for the burgeoning romance with Shelby, who’s already proposed. Although Waldo looks like a rotten bastard in the process too as his pleasure is so gleefully obvious.
Could some of the above have lead to the murder of sweet sweet Laura? And, on whose hands is her blood, hmmmm?
I can’t go into too much more detail as I’ll give away major plot spoilers but let’s just say: things aren’t as they seem. And how could they be in a Film Noir classic, I ask you? The very cornerstone of no good double crossing and stone cold MURDER.
I will say that McPherson has formed a rather unhealthy crush on the dead victim and spends an awful lot of time rifling through her knicker drawers and pretending to smoke (he keeps one fag in his mouth without inhaling for upward of about 2 minutes. Plus, when he drinks hard liquor he looks really unnatural – just my observations).
What follows in the second half is the true tale, not just of whodunnit but also: whoreallygotshotted. It’s pretty tense.
Annnnd, I’ve just realised that I’ve forgotten to mention the best character in this film, Laura’s adoring maid Bessie (Dorothy Adams) who would literally do anything for her boss. She’s also staunchly anti-po po and gives McPherson a toungue lashing for reading Laura’s personal diaries. GO BESSIE!
Before I ruin any more of the suspense – to the Questions section!
Who killed Laura and why would anyone want to murder a sweetie with such a good wardrobe? What’s the real story with rotten egg Waldo?
Will Detective McPherson ever fulfil his desire for the unattainable (i.e. dead) Laura? And, did you know Vincent Price was that tall?
Loved it. It’s a classic alright with some nice twists and a dark as fudge climax. Also a brilliant, brilliant death scene.
My Rating: 5/5. Now that’s what I’m talking about, Willis. WATCH IT, WATCH IT NOW!