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]
BIOS: 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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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Unappreciated Film Noir With A DifferenceApril 9 2007
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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
An Effective Noir Thriller--"Angel Face" Is A Great Change-Of-Pace Showcase For Jean SimmonsJan. 8 2007
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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.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Hackneyed Plot and Vicious Intent Produce a Chilling Film Noir.Aug. 4 2007
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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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Soft Sell Femme FataleFeb. 4 2007
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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.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A fine, little known noir with excellent performances by Jean Simmons and Robert MitchumFeb. 1 2007
C. O. DeRiemer
- Published on Amazon.com
Diane Tremayne (Jean Simmons) should be everything Frank Jessup (Robert Mitchum) could ever want. She's young, beautiful and rich. The trouble is, she arranges "accidents." She worships her father and hates her stepmother. She's the kind of young woman who can make herself believe, for as long as she needs, what she must believe. We know there is going to be an inevitable, deadly conclusion to Diane's and Frank's story as soon as we hear the music over the opening credits and, a few minutes later, see Diane's beautiful, expressionless face crumple into tears when she learns her stepmother survived a leaking gas jet.
Angel Face is a taut, well-told noir with a superb performance by Jean Simmons and an equally good one by Mitchum. Who knows what triggered Mitchum to get involved enough in a movie of his to put forth the effort for a complex performance. Whatever it was, he delivers the goods as Frank Jessup. Frank is an ambulance driver, ambitious enough to be saving his money to start his own garage. He has a girl friend he more than just likes. But when he arrives at the Tremayne mansion on an emergency call one night he finds himself caught up in a number of temptations. He may be a reasonably honorable guy, but deep behind his eyes he can see the possibilities when Diane Tremayne begins to pursue him. It's not long before he has agreed to become the chauffeur for the Tremaynes, to place on hold his relationship with his girl, to allow himself to relax with Diane's attentions, to let himself think of that garage he wants financed by Tremayne money. And he begins to recognize Diane's obsessiveness...her hatred of her step-mother...the likelihood she had something to do with that gas leak...her way of innocently manipulating things. "You hate that woman," he tells Diane, "and someday you'll hate her enough to kill her." Frank is no fool. "Diane, look. I don't pretend to know what goes on behind that pretty little face of yours and I don't want to. But I learned one thing early. Never be the innocent by-stander...that's the guy who always gets hurt." Too late, Frank.
What Frank has to deal with is Diane Tremayne, and that means Jean Simmons. She was a marvelous British actress who became a Hollywood star. This was one of her first movies after she came to America. Her innocent, vulnerable beauty too often disguised an immense range as an actress. At 17 she played young Estella in Great Expectations. Her imperious ways of making young Pip's life difficult is fascinating. At 18 as Kanchi, the native girl in Black Narcissus, she was sexy, spoiled and believably knowing. At 19 she proved she could hold her own against Olivier when she played Ophelia in Hamlet. At 22 she was almost unbelievably fragile and vulnerable as Sophie Malraux in The Clouded Yellow. In Hollywood, she became a star, but all too often the films she was in were big fat productions which are scarcely thought of now. With Angel Face, Simmons gives a portrait of obsession that keeps us off balance. She looks at us and we want to believe the best...but we know better than to do so. There's always that slight edge of unnatural wheel-turning that, thanks to Simmons' skill, we only catch at the corner of our eyes. The story of Angel Face may be strictly linear, but Simmon's Diane Tremayne gives the movie a lot of uneasy depth. Combine that with Mitchum's first-rate performance and we're looking at a very good movie. The ending, while perfectly set up, is memorable and startling.
Along the way we can enjoy the subtle, charming job Herbert Marshall does as Diane's father...an aging author who has given in to the luxuries and security of a very rich wife, and the smooth performance of Leon Ames as Fred Barrett, the lawyer who defends Diane and Frank against murder charges. Barrett is not sleazy, simply an excellent and realistic legal strategist. Angel Face is a fine movie; anyone who likes noirs, or just good drama, should welcome this to his or her collection.
The DVD transfer looks just fine. The only extra is a commentary track by Eddie Muller, identified as a film noir historian. I listened to parts of it. Muller was knowledgeable and pleasantly gossipy.