Sunday, September 18, 2011

Only a Dream

We got Jennifer on a tip from MovieMorlocks - and a great tip it was. It stars Ida Lupino - hooked yet? She has come to a desolate old Spanish mansion in the Santa Barbara hills looking to take a position as caretaker. The owner, rich young Mary Shipp, tells her that the last caretaker, cousin Jennifer, just disappeared - probably just left, the flighty thing - and can you start right away?

 Of course, like Rebecca and Laura, this is a movie about an absence.

 Lupino needs the job, and doesn't mind being alone. In fact, she seems to want to spend time by herself. She seems to have had a recent past - romantic disappointment, nervous breakdown, it isn't clear. But she becomes obsessed with Jennifer, reading her diary and eventually wearing her dress. And finally believing that she was murdered.

But who did it? The laconic gardener? The chatty grocery boy? Or could it be - Howard Duff, the guy who is making himself just a little too much at home in the mansion. Always dropping by and helping himself to a beer, trying to make a date with Lupino and not taking "no" for an answer. He seems like a nice guy...

Lupino is predictably excellent in this low-budget thriller/melodrama. She conveys her character's vulnerability and growing hysteria wonderfully. But secretly, I'm really here for Duff. As radio detective Sam Spade, his voice has the prefect combination of deadpan humor and tough guy nerve. Here, I get to see his face, and it just fits. I didn't realize he was married to Lupino until I looked him up just now.

So, an atmospheric thriller (albeit low budget and short) with Ida Lupino and Howard Duff. Good enough for me.

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