I stumbled upon this film late one night while watching TCM. I was intrigued enough to stay up late and watch it because of one person: Ida Lupino. I don’t know if you know who this wonderful actress is or not, but I am going to enlighten you anyway. She was a pretty in demand actress from the late thirties to the mid fifties. She played mostly femme fatale characters in dark twisted film noirs. She starred in High Sierra, On Dangerous Ground and many other smoky and sensual films. She was not always the star, but she was always the stand out. But she isn’t as famous as other sultry femme fatales for one reason: She decided to start directing. In the late forties, she directed her first film and became the only woman to be admitted to the Director’s Guild during her professional career. She never made any films that were blockbusters, but she still made history. I haven’t seen her directed features for a reason: in a time when studio financing was the norm, she decided to go completely independent. This resulted in her films being hard to come by in later years. So until someone smarts up and releases a box set of her films, I have to be content to only have seen the films she has acted in.
In this film, Ida stars with John Garfield in a film noir where she gets to play a twist on her normal persona. Instead of being a seducer, she is a seducee. She is trapped in a foggy part of Brooklyn stuck in the same routine day in and day out. She longs for an escape, a chance to get away and travel. Enter John Garfield’s character, a crack wise evil gangster. He not only seduces Ida’s character Stella, he also squeezes money out of her father and his friend who own a small fishing boat. He is a corrupting influence on Stella and her father vows to stop him.
I have to admit that this wasn’t the best film in the world. Ida is great as usual, but John seems to have been playing to the rafters. He overacts so much that I wanted reach in and pop him every time he was on-screen. I found that odd because I have seen John Garfield in other films where he is subtle and great. The plot is straight forward and the cinematography is not too amazing or interesting. I feel like they didn’t use the fog as well as they should have. But what I found intriguing about this film was the details and by this I mean the character actors. Ida’s father’s friend works in a small restaurant bar where he toils away for long hours dreaming of when he can get back out on his boat. This restaurant is full of little performances like the woman owner who wants the cook’s bone, the constant complaining of the barkeeper about the monotony of his clients which just adds to the monotony of the situation, and the card players who constantly cheat against each other when the other isn’t looking. I found that the details and small performances in a picture are what make a mediocre movie worth watching. It keeps me invested and you want me invested, otherwise I sit at my computer hating myself and that little blinking dash for hours. I feel like that blinking dash mocks me when I am not looking at it.