Angel Face (1952)

“How stupid do you think I am? You hate that woman, and someday you’re gonna hate her enough to kill her. It’s been in the back of your mind all along.”

Poster

Synopsis:
The manipulative daughter (Jean Simmons) of a writer (Herbert Marshall) tries to enlist the help of her new chauffeur (Robert Mitchum) in killing her wealthy stepmother (Barbara O’Neil).

Genres:

Review:
Otto Preminger’s atmospheric thriller features compelling performances, beautiful b&w cinematography, and several unexpected deviations from the traditional noir set-up. Unlike most of the heedless chumps populating this genre, Mitchum’s character (always savvy — he’s a relentlessly intelligent actor) never fully falls for “Angel Face”; and while Simmons’ femme fatale is appropriately manipulative and reckless, her motivations lie deeper than mere exploitation and greed. The narrative’s pacing foils expectations as well: the courtroom scene — which one would expect to be the final climax — isn’t; indeed, if you’ve never seen Angel Face, avoid reading any other online reviews, since most of them give away the ending.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Robert Mitchum as Frank
    Mitchum
  • Jean Simmons as Diane
    Simmons
  • Mona Freeman as Frank’s fiancee
  • Crisp b&w cinematography by Harry Stradling

Must See?
Yes. This unusual little noir film is now regarded as one of Preminger’s best.

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(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Angel Face (1952)”

  1. A must – and one of those it’s best to know as little about prior as possible. So I’m in total agreement here and will add little.

    I will, however, beef up the recommendation of catching Simmons’ deliciously complex performance. There is a bit of a silly aspect to her character, truth be told (which is mainly why Mitchum resists somewhat), but the actress side-steps with general ease for the most part, esp. when she has a subtextual mood shift to work with. Also impressive, as stated, is Freeman as Mitchum’s girl (somewhat along the lines of Nancy Olson in ‘Sunset Boulevard’).

    In fact, my fave scene, perhaps, comes early on, when Simmons insinuates herself (she tends to do that) on Freeman by asking her to lunch. Terrific scene!

    A particular treat for ffs comes with the DVD: a commentary by noir expert Eddie Muller. Commentaries can often be a drag but Muller’s is engaging and full-to-the-brim with insight and surprising behind-the-scenes facts re: the filming. Highly recommended extra!

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