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House on Telegraph Hill

Richard Basehart , Valentina Cortese , Robert Wise    NR (Not Rated)   DVD
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 16.98
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House on Telegraph Hill + Dark Corner + Road House (1948)
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Product Description

House On Telegraph Hill is an intriguing cliffhanger set in a spooky Victorian mansion below Coit Tower in San Francisco.

Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortese) has lived through World War II bombings and relocation camps, and has finally emigrated to America. Now, she should be blissfully happy with her devoted husband (Richard Basehart) in their mansion overlooking the San Francisco Bay, but Victoria is not who she seems, her child belongs to someone else, and her husband and housekeeper are frightening her half to death.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Big Bill TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
Another selection from the Fox Film Noir lineup. A woman survives WWII to be reunited with her son. The son's
guardian takes a shine to new arrival and marries her , even though he's had a live in maid to help with the boy and be his
stand in Mom. Oh , did I mention the young man stands to inherit this and that. Who's doing what? Who's on the up and up?
There's no figuring it out before the end , which has twists and turns aplenty. Glorious Black & white , a solid movie
in the film noir genre.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Do you know who I am? Oct. 6 2013
By bernie TOP 100 REVIEWER
I have watched this film several times and feel that you will also.

The film is in black and white. Much of the story is narration. There are quite a few interesting actors who play quite a few interesting parts in this film. However sometimes it is fun to think where you have seen them before such as Richard Basehart that in other movies played Maximilian Robespierre and Adolf Hitler.

I would go into details of the story as that is why you will watch it. There is more to the movie than just the story. Basically Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortesa) loses husband and house in WWII. She befriends a fellow concentration camp person and exchanges identities for a better life after the war. She moves to America (The house on telegraph hill, San Francisco) to acquire her inheritance and everything looks cozy on the surface but she has the feeling that there is something sinister going on.

Watch as the story unfolds and see if you do not feel the same thing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  42 reviews
71 of 73 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Psychological Thriller Where People Aren't Who They Appear To Be March 28 2006
By C. O. DeRiemer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The House on Telegraph Hill may not be an A thriller, but it's a B-plus thriller trying hard. It has an intriguing premise, characters who may not be who they seem, a great locale in San Francisco and a big, gloomy mansion.

Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortese; spelled Cortesa in the credits) is a Polish survivor of the Belsen concentration camp. Her husband was killed by the Germans and her home in Poland has been destroyed. Just before the camp is liberated her closest friend dies. This was a woman who had a wealthy aunt in America. Victoria's friend managed to smuggled her baby boy out of Poland and to the aunt just as the Germans invaded. Given a chance at a new life in America, Victoria grabs for it. She uses her friend's papers to assume her friend's identity. After spending time in a relocation camp, she learns the aunt has died. She makes her way to America and in New York meets the boy's guardian, Alan Spender (Richard Basehart). The boy will inherit the aunt's riches when he comes of age. Spender, who has adopted the boy, is initially suspicious of Victoria, but then he seems captivated by her. Victoria believes that she can love the boy as her own and find security with Spender. In a whirlwind decision they marry, return to San Francisco...and then suspicious things begin to happen.

If Victoria is not who she pretends to be, it may be than Alan Spender isn't either. Hovering in the background and living in the mansion on Telegraph Hill with them is Margaret (Fay Baker), the boy's nanny. Margaret is a tightly wound woman, controlling, and is not pleased with the marriage. Into this mix drifts Marc Bennett (William Lundigan). Before long, he and Victoria begin finding their way toward a relationship of their own.

The movie has several things going for it. Robert Wise, the director, takes his time setting the scene with Victoria, letting us know how her feelings for security were formed at Belsen. The action moves step by step, slowly and steadily building up our suspicions about Spender, leading us on to dislike Margaret and making everyday actions like driving a car or drinking orange juice something to be wary of. The film is carefully photographed to create mood. The bright San Francisco days and the busy streets of the city contrast nicely with the gloominess and tension in the old mansion.

What keeps this out of the A list is, I think, the actors. They all do fine jobs but there just isn't the camera-catching interest that many first-rank star actors can bring to a role. Cortese is effective and sympathetic. Basehart does a skilled job of slowly letting us see little, disquieting emotions. He was a skilled actor but somehow seemed to lack the charisma that makes evil or derangement fascinating. Lundigan was a big, handsome guy but who always seemed like the extra man invited to fill out a dinner party, attractive but not much there. Fay Baker, however, nearly manages to steal the movie. Her role is more complex than we're led to believe, and she pulls it off with skill.

I've always admired Richard Basehart even if I seldom found any individual role he played, especially later on in his career, very interesting. He always turned in a solid performance and he was versatile. When he started out in movies he managed to land several roles in interesting movies that helped establish his career. On DVD check him out in He Walked by Night (1948) as a very cool criminal or in Reign of Terror (1949) as a paranoid Robespierre. He steals every scene he shares with the movie's hero, Robert Cummings. On late night cable you might get a chance to see him in Decision Before Dawn (1951) as a sympathetic army officer dealing with a German POW, Oskar Werner, or in Fourteen Hours (1951), a flawed film with some excellent performances, or in a supporting role in Repeat Performance (1947), his first movie. Repeat Performance is a gem; a woman kills a man, runs to a friend for help, and when she arrives realizes that time has moved back a year. She has a second chance, but will anything she do make a difference?

Some call The House on Telegraph Hill a noir. It isn't, in my view, especially with the term "noir" now seen as a great marketing device to sell old movies. It's a skillfully put together psychological thriller with a great premise. The DVD picture looks good and there is a commentary track, which I didn't listen to, by Eddie Muller. He's listed as being a noted film historian.
22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lady in the dark June 18 2006
By Jay Dickson - Published on Amazon.com
Intent on making a star with this vehicle out of the unusual Italian actress Valentina Cortese, Fox opened up its coffers for THE HOUSE ON TELEGRAPH HILL and also used some of their finest technical talent: the gowns, the sets, and the cinematography are absolutely first-tier, and the director, Robert Wise, does his usual intelligent tricky work with editing to make this woman - in - jeopardy film extraordinarily compelling. The script seems to be a mélange of several 40s melodramas, including REBECCA, GASLIGHT, DRAGONWYCK and (most of all) SUSPICION, but the film's excellent use of its San Francisco locale helps tremendously, as does Cortese's extraordinary performance as the guilt-ridden concentration-camp survivor who steals another woman's identity.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Thriller May 7 2006
By David Baldwin - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
This film is a real buried treasure. I found it to be reminiscent of Hitchcock at his best. Director Robert Wise perfectly captures the ominous sense of dread by letting this tale unfold subtlely to a satisfactory climax. The film is anchored by a powerhouse performance by Valentina Cortesa. You appreciate the depth of Cortesa's work here because she plays a flawed character, a Polish refugee who assumes the identity of a wealthy heiress who died in the concentration camps. The fact that we root for Cortesa's character against the potentially malevolent forces working against her is a testament to her skill as an actress. Also contributing excellent work here is an understated Richard Basehart.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Suspense that Keeps Us Wondering: Paranoia or Real Peril? Sept. 19 2006
By mirasreviews - Published on Amazon.com
"House on Telegraph Hill" is a gothic suspense loosely based on Dana Lyon's novel "The Frightened Child". Sometimes categorized as film noir, this film is only vaguely so. It's very much in the mold of "Gaslight" or Hitchcock's "Rebecca" and "Suspicion" in placing a possibly paranoid woman in an imposing house with an inscrutable husband and a series of suspicious accidents. Is she the victim of foul play or simply neurotic? The film was conceived as a vehicle for Italian actress Valentina Cortesa, who struggled with her English but gives as strong a performance as the script allows. The art direction by John De Cuir and Lyle Wheeler was nominated for an Academy Award. The façade of the "house on telegraph hill" that appears to overlook the San Francisco Bay was assembled over top of real buildings on that very site. The interior of the house is a set, but the antique Victorian furnishings are real.

In 1939, Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortesa) lost her home and husband to the German advance. In a concentration camp, she befriended a fellow Polish woman named Karin de Nakova whose infant son was sent to live with a rich aunt in the United States before the war. In spite of Victoria's efforts to keep her friend healthy, Karin died before the camp was liberated. Victoria assumed Karin's identity and tried to contact her aunt in the US, only to learn that Aunt Sophie had died. Four years later, Karin arrives in the US and finds that Aunt Sophie's American nephew Alan Spender (Richard Basehart) adopted young Christopher (Gordon Gebert) and lives in the aunt's grand mansion on San Francisco's Telegraph Hill. Alan romances Karin and proposes marriage, which she happily accepts. But, between Christopher's possessive governess (Fay Baker) and odd occurrences around the house, Karin begins to suspect that Alan wants her dead. She turns to sympathetic ex-Army officer Maj. Marc Bennett (William Lundigan), whom she knew in Germany, for advice.

We know that Alan married Karin/Victoria in order to secure his inheritance. And Karin married Alan for wealth and security. We can hardly blame them for this mutually beneficial arrangement. Alan is always polite and generous toward his wife. He seems to be concerned about her happiness. Could he be a cold-blooded killer with no regard for life, not even a child's? Or have Karin's constant struggles for life in the deplorable conditions of the concentration camp made her pathologically fearful? We don't know if the danger Karin sees is real or imagined. She doesn't either. And this really works. The film's ability to keep us guessing is its strength -along with the spectacular house. Valentina Cortesa has a warm, appealing presence. Richard Basehart is charmingly ambiguous. I think that Karin's confused emotions could have been stronger. "House on Telegraph Hill" is not the caliber of "Rebecca", but it is a solid suspense nonetheless.

The DVD (20th Century Fox 2006): Bonus features include 4 still photography galleries (5 posters, 38 production stills, 52 behind-the-scenes, and 9publicity stills), a theatrical trailer (2  min), and a good, nearly constant audio commentary by film noir historian Eddie Muller. Muller provides some interesting tidbits about the cast, points out what footage was left out of the film, and comments on the art direction. Muller also offers some criticism of the film's early scenes and weak aspects of the script. His observations of what would have made this film stronger and also more "noir" are spot-on. Subtitles are available for the film in English and Spanish. Dubbing available in Spanish.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GOOD GOTHIC THRILLER.... March 23 2006
By Mark Norvell - Published on Amazon.com
Surprisingly good modern Gothic thriller set in San Francisco. Polish WW11 refugee (Valentina Cortesa), after surviving concentration camps, assumes her dead friend's identity and comes to the US where she meets and falls in love with Richard Basehart. She is the "long-lost-relative" he has been waiting to meet. Now esconced in a spooky house on Telegraph Hill, she has reasons to fear the icy housekeeper (Fay Baker) as well as her new husband. Also in jeopardy is the little son of her dead friend whom she grows to love and think of as her own. Only a lawyer friend (William Lundigan) is empathetic to her growing suspicions and terror. Robert Wise provided taut direction to this engrossing film and the b&w photography is superb as is the location shooting in San Francisco. Cortesa spends near the entire film in panic or distress, Basehart is sinisterly effective as the overly doting husband, and Baker is very good as the housekeeper/governess whose motives keep you guessing. Excellent DVD print of this rarely seen thriller make this a keeper. Cortesa and Basehart married in real life and Cortesa went on to a long illustrious career, later winning an Oscar nod in Francois Truffaut's "Day for Night" in 1973. She was still appearing in films as late as 1989 in "The Adventures of Baron Munchausen".
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