Verdict, The (1946)

“You seem to have greater interest in Kendall dead than alive.”

Synopsis:
After accidentally sending the wrong man to the gallows, Superintendent Grodman (Sydney Greenstreet) is released from duty and replaced by ambitious Superintendent Buckley (George Coulouris). When another murder takes place, both Grodman and Buckley try to determine who among a host of suspects — including a dance hall singer (Joan Lorring), a landlady (Rosalind Ivan), a detective (Paul Cavanagh), and an artist (Peter Lorre) — is guilty.

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Review:
Don Siegel’s directorial debut received decidedly tepid reviews upon its release, with Bosley Crowther of The New York Times labeling it a “thoroughly unimpressive picture”. But Crowther’s assessment is inaccurate: while The Verdict isn’t quite a classic, it’s both atmospheric and suspenseful, and certainly worth a look. It’s great fun to see Greenstreet and Lorre in their final onscreen pairing, with Lorre’s performance especially enjoyable (what other actor could get away with calmly stating, “I’ve done three stabbings in a row; how about a nice strangling for a change?” and make it seem realistic?). Siegel does an excellent job pointing fingers at a host of possible suspects, and the final plot twist comes as quite the surprise.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Sydney Greenstreet as Grodman
    Verdict Greenstreet
  • Peter Lorre as Grodman’s loyal friend, Victor Emmric
    Verdict Lorre
  • Highly atmospheric lighting, with ample use of shadows
    Verdict Shadows
  • The surprising final plot twist

Must See?
No, but it’s recommended, and probably must see for fans of Peter Lorre and/or Don Siegel.

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One Response to “Verdict, The (1946)”

  1. A must.

    As Greenstreet states near the end of the film, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Indeed! As for the film itself, it’s one of those that are that much better if one knows little about them.

    This is a densely constructed noir-ish mystery – with a whiff of Agatha Christie – which is top-notch all the way; no lulls here!

    Siegel handles himself wonderfully his first time at bat, and the screenplay nicely establishes various suspects. It’s even slightly comic.

    Bolstering the proceedings are two terrific performances by Greenstreet and Lorre. They have a marvelous on-screen rapport.

    Two nice, odd touches:
    a) when the landlady poses for a sketch of her reaction when she saw a body;
    b) the vaguely gay (or, as the saying has it, “merely British?”) undertaker.

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