“We’re three strangers — that’s the point.”
On Chinese New Year, three strangers — a socially-aspiring attorney (Sydney Greenstreet), the wealthy wife (Geraldine Fitzgerald) of a philanderer (Alan Napier), and a petty thief (Peter Lorre) — share in the outcome of a lottery ticket after praying to a goddess of fortune.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Geraldine Fitzgerald Films
- Jean Negulesco Films
- John Huston Films
- Peter Lorre Films
- Sydney Greenstreet Films
Jean Negulesco directed this atmospheric, fast-paced thriller, based on a script by John Huston and Howard Koch and featuring Maltese Falcon (1941) co-stars Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre (as well as luminous Geraldine Fitzgerald, who seemed to specialize in playing women with a potentially loose screw). Huston and Koch’s tight screenplay intrigues and invites from the very beginning; we’re held captive throughout, wondering what will befall each of our hapless, all-too-human protagonists. There’s really not a false step taken here, with uniformly strong performances, atmospheric cinematography (by Arthur Edeson), and a satisfyingly ruthless screenplay, complete with potent character names (“Crystal Shackleford”, “Icey Crane”, etc.). Enjoy this one!
Note: Warner Brothers teamed Lorre and Greenstreet in one other title — 1944’s The Mask of Dimitrios, also directed by Negulesco and listed in Peary’s GFTFF.
Redeeming Qualities and Moments:
- Excellent performances by the three leads
- Fine cinematography by Arthur Edeson
Yes, as a most enjoyable sleeper.