Among the Living (1941)

“For five thousand dollars, I’m not afraid of anything — not even death!”

Poster

Synopsis:
Upon the death of his industrialist father, John (Albert Dekker) learns that his “dead” twin brother Paul (also Dekker) is actually alive but insane. After years of being kept secretly locked up, Paul escapes from his keeper (Ernest Whitman) and tries to live a “normal” life, but finds himself killing again and again; meanwhile, the gold digging daughter (Susan Hayward) of Paul’s new landlady (Maude Eburne) is determined to earn the $5,000 award offered for locating the “mysterious” killer.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
As Peary notes, this “impressive ‘B’ movie” (directed by Stuart Heisler) features “good acting and direction” as well as plenty of “suspense” and “mill-town atmosphere.” Indeed, at just 68-minutes, Among the Living is chock-full of all the necessary ingredients for an exciting B-level thriller: a funeral, a mysterious rash of murders, insanity, childhood secrets, amateur sleuths, shady doctors, gold diggers, noir-ish cinematography, and more. As in Robert Siodmak’s 1946 film The Dark Mirror (starring Olivia De Haviland), the theme of doppelganger twins — one “good”, one “evil” — is milked here for all its worth, to satisfying effect (Dekker is well-suited to his dual roles). Indeed, the performances throughout are all fine, with Susan Hayward particularly noteworthy as a gold-digging mill worker who doesn’t realize the killer she’s greedily looking for is standing right beside her.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Susan Hayward as the scheming gold digger who unknowingly puts herself in harm’s way
    Susan Hayward
  • Albert Dekker’s effective performance in dual roles
    Dekker
  • Frances Farmer in a small, somewhat thankless role as John’s wife
    Frances Farmer

Must See?
No, but it’s an excellent thriller, and well worth watching if you can find a copy.

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One Response to “Among the Living (1941)”

  1. Agreed – not a must, though it is a compact and atmospheric thriller, well directed by Stuart Heisler. Heisler spent years as an editor before becoming a director — the cutting here is very efficient, esp. the sequence in which Dekker (as the insane brother) is overwhelmed by frenetic activity in a bar. Not a major director, Heisler went on to helm some interesting films, like “The Glass Key’, “Storm Warning’ and “The Star’.

    Solid, if not more, performances are turned in by Dekker, Hayward and Harry Carey as the doc. But real film buffs may take the most interest in Frances Farmer – even though she has a small role, she has real presence. Supposedly, this is the kind of insignificant part she was “punished’ with later for opting to spend time in New York working in the theater. Fans of the Jessica Lange film “Frances’ will want to check this out.

    Best dialogue bit is with the “insane’ Dekker and a bar girl, after he naively continues to praise Hayward’s beauty in front of her:
    Girl: “Well, thanks for the drink. Bring Millie in sometime and we’ll all go over to my place and bake a cake.”
    Dekker: “Oh, I’d like that!”
    Girl: “Don’t be a dope.”

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