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Angel Face [Import]

Robert Mitchum , Jean Simmons , Otto Preminger    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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By J. Lovins TOP 50 REVIEWER
RKO Radio Pictures presents "ANGEL FACE" (1952) (91 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- When Mrs. Tremayne is mysteriously poisoned with gas, ambulance driver Frank Jessup meets her refined but sensuous stepdaughter Diane, who quickly pursues and infatuates him --- Under Diane's seductive influence, Frank is soon the Tremayne chauffeur; but he begins to suspect danger under her surface sweetness --- When he shows signs of pulling away, Diane schemes to get him in so deep he'll never get out.

A Howard Hughes production, Angel Face has one of the most sensational conclusions in film - one has to see it to believe it

Special footnote trivia -- When Robert Mitchum got fed up with repeated re-takes in which the director Otto Preminger ordered him to slap Jean Simmons across the face, he turned around and slapped Preminger, asking whether it was this way he wanted it. Preminger immediately demanded from Howard Hughes for Mitchum to be replaced. Hughes refused.

Under the production staff of:
Otto Preminger [Director/Producer]
Frank S. Nugent [Screenplay]
Oscar Millard [Screenplay]
Chester Erskine [Story]
Dimitri Tiomkin [Original Film Music]
Harry Stradling Sr. [Cinematographer]
Frederic Knudtson [Film Editor]

1. Otto Ludwig Preminger [Director]
Date of Birth: 5 December 1905 - Wiznitz, Bukovina, Austria-Hungary (now Wyschnyzja, Ukraine))
Date of Death: 23 April 1986 - New York City, New York

2. Robert Mitchum [aka: Robert Charles Durman Mitchum]
Date of Birth: 6 August 1917 - Bridgeport, Connecticut
Date of Death: 1 July 1997 - Santa Barbara, California

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  28 reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unappreciated Film Noir With A Difference April 9 2007
By Nobody - Published on Amazon.com
Angel Face was directed in 1952 by: Otto Preminger (Laura, 1944; Anatomy Of A Murder, 1959). Otto Preminger's `Laura' is now rightly regarded as one of great film noir masterpieces, however he made some less appreciated noirs like Fallen Angel (1945); Whirlpool (1949); Where The Sidewalk Ends (1950) and this film Angel Face. Upon it's release critics and public alike had seen perhaps far too many of this type of film hence the negative reviews. However I feel that this film is deserving of some rehabilitation. The theme is a familiar one of the Femme Fatale attempting to get some chump to assist in a murder. Angel Face is slightly different in that the Femme Fatale's (performed by Jean Simmons (Great Expectations, 1946; Hamlet, 1948; The Black Narcissus, 1947)) motivation is not the standard killing for money but for love. This makes it similar to the Ellen Berent character played by Gene Tierney in `Leave Her To Heaven' (1946, John M. Stahl). Generally in noir's guys kill for the girl and girls for the money. Robert Mitchum (Out Of The Past, 1947; Crossfire, 1947; Night Of The Hunter, 1955) gives a wonderful performance of a guy who is not so stupid as to get suck into her trap. He also has some great dialogue that one wish's they could always have at hand to deliver in those situations. Along with Humphrey Bogart and Burt Lancaster, Mitchum has to rank as one of the great noir actors. Cinematography was by Harry Stradling (A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951; Johnny Guitar, 1954; A Face In The Crowd, 1957)

This DVD comes with a wonderful audio commentary by Eddie Muller and is well worth a listen. In 1964 Jean-Luc Godard placed this film at no. 8 in his list of the greatest American films of the sound era. That alone should be good enough reason to investigate this film. It also has one of the great endings.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An Effective Noir Thriller--"Angel Face" Is A Great Change-Of-Pace Showcase For Jean Simmons Jan. 8 2007
By K. Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Otto Preminger's "Angel Face" has always had a special place in my heart. Preminger, as a filmmaker, is certainly noteworthy--but aside from a few films (including "Laura" and "Anatomy of a Murder"), he isn't one of my particular favorites. I don't know--to me, he was more of a technician than an artist. He made good films, in general, but doesn't have the appeal of some of the other "big name" directors. I love "Angel Face," however, pretty much for one reason--Jean Simmons. Simmons, I believe, is one of our most underrated actresses. She has played the lead in some very high profile and versatile films, including the scathing "Elmer Gantry," the epic "Spartacus," the terrific musical "Guys and Dolls," and Olivier's "Hamlet." Relegated to mostly TV roles for the last few decades, I wish her film legacy was more widely appreciated. "Angel Face" is particularly noteworthy in her film oeuvre because it gives her the rare opportunity to play a femme fatale type.

Robert Mitchum, playing an ambulance driver, responds to call involving a wealthy matriarch. It seems as if Mrs. Tremayne has been mysteriously poisoned by gas. Upon his visit, he meets Mrs. Tremayne's freeloading husband and her stepdaughter--played with haughty playfulness by Simmons. Infatuated with the young beauty, he soon falls under her spell and actually starts to work for the estate as the chauffeur. Relinquishing a former relationship and financial independence, he becomes more and more involved in the family dynamic playing out in the mansion. It soon becomes apparent that not all is as it seems and a psychological thriller, of sorts, starts to develop.

Essentially, while "Angel Face" is structured as a conventional noir--it can also be judged as an effective character study. From the haunting music, the shadowy stretches of mansion, the wistful stares from rain-streaked windows--the mood and atmosphere establish a familiar ambiance. But pitting the tough guy persona of Mitchum against the emotional aloofness of Simmons, we see two distinct and intriguing personalities. Simmons, with her doll-like features and regal manner, is really what distinguishes this picture. With a more typical noir leading lady, "Angel Face" would not be nearly as effective. Simmons' playing against type adds to the suspense and mystery--it's almost as if we are lured (along with Mitchum) deeper into the story due to our expectations connected to Simmons as an actress.

I highly recommend "Angel Face." While not Preminger's best film, it certainly ranks in the top. And while not necessarily the best or most original noir, it certainly is effective and creepy. This is the case of a lot of talented individuals making a very solid and entertaining film. KGHarris, 01/07.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hackneyed Plot and Vicious Intent Produce a Chilling Film Noir. Aug. 4 2007
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
Conceived simply as an instrument of Howard Hughes' revenge, "Angel Face"'s perverse production history and mundane plotting yielded a disquieting cult classic in the deft hands of director Otto Preminger. Actress Jean Simmons had successfully sued Hughes to get out of a 7-year contract but still owed RKO a movie. Not one to let bygones be bygones, Hughes pulled an unexceptional script out of the vaults and plied Preminger to direct, promising him full creative control. It was the sort of "murder drama" that we now call "film noir", already rapidly losing appeal in the early 1950s. Preminger's rewrites, a low budget, 18 shooting days, a mission to make life miserable for Jean Simmons, and bodily conflict between Preminger and star Robert Mitchum produced a film that is not especially memorable for its story but whose eerie, disturbing undertones make it unforgettable.

Ambulance driver Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) is called to the Tremayne mansion when Catherine Tremayne (Barbara O'Neil) nearly asphyxiates from a gas leak in her bedroom. Her husband Charles (Hebert Marshall) and police speculate on how the accident may have occurred, but Catherine believes that someone tried to kill her. After a brief flirtation with Catherine's oddly unstable stepdaughter Diane (Jean Simmons), Frank heads back to the station. Diane impulsively follows, easily convincing Frank to beg off his evening with girlfriend Mary (Mona Freeman). Frank sees a lot of Diane, an idle, rich young woman who idolizes her doting novelist father and jealously despises her stepmother. She gets Frank a job as Tremayne family chauffeur. She connives to come between him and Mary. She lies. She dramatizes. Frank sees through her. But, intrigued by Diane's' lifestyle and flattered by her neediness, he goes along anyway.

Maybe the on-set strife and cruelty informed "Angel Face"'s perverse psychology. Neither profound nor clever, Diane's clumsy machinations and Frank's submission pack an emotional wallop. Diane is trouble all right, but not a classic noir femme fatale. Her motives are entirely emotional -insecurity, instability, infatuation. Her scheming is childish and transparent. Frank Jessup, very much in noir protagonist form, is foolish enough to entangle himself in it. The film is elevated by careful, though certainly cliched, writing of the supporting characters, who provide the circumstances from which Frank and Diane's self-destruction emerges: Diane's burned-out, free-spending father and indulgent stepmother. Frank's pragmatic, hard-working girlfriend. Diane barely in control of her devastating behavior and Frank thoroughly in control to no avail make a lasting impression.

The DVD (Warner 2007): There is a nice audio commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller, who obviously admires the film. He discusses themes, Robert Mitchum's noir archetypes, the film's structure, refutes the idea of the femme fatale as a reaction to post-war working women, and provides a lot of background information on the motives, rewrites, and conflict behind "Angel Face". Subtitles for the film are available in English. Dubbing is available in French.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing attempt at film noir Dec 7 2011
By Dr. James Gardner - Published on Amazon.com
"Angel Face" is a 1952 black and white melodrama from Otto Preminger with Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons.

The film is often mis-labeled "film noir". Classic film noir has certain conventions, the major ones being a femme fatale, double and triple crosses, a protagonist (often a cop or detective) who with a single error of judgment sets the motion in action, a cast of seedy characters, and lots of night and/or rain sequences. This film has only one of these conventions - the femme fatale, played very well by sexy and beautiful Jean Simmons (1929-2010). But otherwise, this is merely a melodrama, and a poor one at that.

The reason for mistaking the film for "noir" may be that it contains film noir alumni like Robert Mitchum and Otto Preminger. Robert Mitchum (1917-97) received his only Oscar nomination for "The Story of GI Joe" (1945), but movie fans know that Mitchum was a terrific actor who deserved far more acknowledgement, but his "bad boy" persona undoubtedly interfered. Mitchum's work in films like "The Night of the Hunter" (1955) and "Cape Fear" (1962) is ranked by AFI as among the top 100 villains of all time. I liked him best as the drunken sheriff in "El Dorado" (1966). In the 40s and 50s he was the "king" of film noir with films like "When Strangers Marry" (1944), "The Locket" (1946), "Pursued" (1947), "Out of the Past" (1947), etc.

Otto Preminger(1905-86) made 41 films and was nominated for an Oscar 3 times ("Laura", "Anatomy of a Murder", "The Cardinal") and a Palme d'Or 3 times ("Carmen Jones", "Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon", "Advise and Consent"). His film noir include "Laura" (1944), "Fallen Angel" (1945), "Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1950), and "The Thirteenth Letter" (1951).

FWIW - Preminger didn't like the script and refused to make the film, but was finally persuaded by Howard Hughes who gave him carte blanche as long as he required Simmons to wear a black wig - apparently the result of a tiff between Hughes and Simmons. The acrimony spilled over and Preminger ended up being slapped in the face by both Simmons and Mitchum.

Putting aside the film noir issue, the film is fairly predictable, and the ending is not very satisfactory. These problems are off set by good acting from Mitchum and Simmons and from a beautiful score by Dimitri Tiomkin (1894-1979). Tiomkin won 3 Oscars ("The High and the Mighty", "High Noon", "The Old Man and the Sea") (1954), and was nominated for 14 more.

Also look for Herbert Marshall as Simmon's father and Jim Backus (Mr. McGoo) as a district attorney.

The NY Times called it "an exasperating blend of genuine talent, occasional perceptiveness and turgid psychological claptrap" and the "taut story idea have been set adrift in a pretentious Freudian mist that wafts through the handsomely mounted proceedings with disastrous results."

The top grossing films in 1952 were "The Greatest Show on Earth", "The Bad and the Beautiful", "The Snows of Kilimanjaro", "Ivanhoe", and "Singing in the Rain". "The Greatest Show on Earth" won for Best Picture and other Oscar winners were "High Noon" (Actor), "The Quiet Man" (Director), "Come Back Little Sheeba" (Actress), and "Viva Zapata" (Supporting Actor).

Bottom line - Good acting and an excellent score can't compensate for a poor script.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soft Sell Femme Fatale Feb. 4 2007
By William Hare - Published on Amazon.com
It was poetic justice for the master of moral ambiguity in filmmaking, Otto Preminger, to journey from home studio Twentieth-Century Fox to direct a film noir drama. It was also fitting that the film's male star was the somber master of noir leading men, Robert Mitchum, but that was not the initial intention.

Otto Preminger's ideal symbol for his moral ambiguity-tinged dramas was Dana Andrews, who starred under Preminger at Fox in classic noirs "Laura" and "Fallen Angel," but he was busy at the time. It was only natural, therefore, for Mitchum to then assume the lead at his home studio. The cinematographer who provided those brilliant, appropriately shadowy black and white noir hues was the veteran, England-born Harry Stradling, who was on loan out from Samuel Goldwyn Studios.

This 1953 release was unsuccessful on its initial run. This is typical of so many of the great noir films of the forties and fifties, many of which are now celebrated as classics as the genre receives current deserved recognition and accompanying plaudits.

One of Mitchum's towering film monuments came at RKO in the 1947 gem "Out of the Past," but it also had trouble gaining traction initially with the public, but has gone on to earn deserved classic status. That great film can be used as an instructive comparison to "Angel Face" to create an important distinction.

In "Out of the Past" Mitchum is confronted with femme fatale Jane Greer, who lights up the screen with her pure explosiveness. Mitchum, despite his persona as a shrewd and streetwise detective, is unable to let go of the potent handful of TNT he is irresistibly drawn to in the form of Greer. The ever-shrewd Greer knows this and plays Mitchum like a Wurlitzer. He is aware of this and still comes back for more, unable to shake her.

This femme fatale model is a familiar one and is exemplified as well by Barbara Stanwyck and Claire Trevor in "Double Indemnity" and "Murder, My Sweet" respectively. Better than a generation Kathleen Turner would carve out a similar niche in "Body Heat."

Master of moral ambiguity Preminger shrewdly presents a deadly but different style of femme fatale in Britisher Jean Simmons. Elegant and soft-spoken, Simmons presents the image of "soft sell femme fatale." Her IQ for man trapping and manipulation, however, is at the same genius level as Greer, Stanwyck, Trevor and Turner.

Mitchum shows up at the mansion where Simmons resides with her author father, played by veteran British leading man Herbert Marshall, and the rich woman who has been keeping both of them. She is soft-spoken and superficially harmless, even seemingly angelic as the title informs us, "Angel Face."

Before Mitchum knows it he has been diverted away from the uncomplicated nice girl he has been dating, Mona Freeman, and is squarely in Simmons' headlights. Before long puppet master-femme fatale Simmons has induced burly but helpless Mitchum to quit his job as an ambulance driver and assume a job as chauffeur. She even promises to help grub stake him to launch his own garage business.

What makes Simmons so convincing and such a unique femme fatale is that not only can she appear angelic; the most frightening events containing shattering magnitude can be carried out with her exuding a detached and relaxed nonchalance. The moral ambiguity emphasized by Preminger has found the perfect communicator in Jean Simmons.

The harder that Mitchum tries to pull away after realizing that a tiger has him by the tail, the more determined and formidable Simmons becomes. Events build to a dramatic climax with an unforgettable twist ending.
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