Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Life At Stake (1954)

A Life At Stake is the first movie on a list of free Film Noir movies on Open Culture's list of free Film Noir Movies  starring a young beautiful Angela Lansbury as the femme fatale, Doris Hillman, Keith Andes as Edward Shaw the hunky down-on-his-luck builder and Douglass Dumbrille as Doris' much older but very wealthy husband, Gus Hillman. Doris Hillman, with the aid of her husband's money, partners herself with Shaw in a real estate development plan, but only if Shaw takes out a hefty life insurance policy.  There's some pretty intense face sucking and body clutching as the affair between Doris and Edward begins almost at first sight. Of course, that's how she suckers him into the shady business deal that he's suspicious of from the start.

When the Hillmans' cold greedy plot to knock off Shaw for his life insurance policy becomes known to Doris' "kid sister" Madge (Claudie Barrett) who is crushing big time on Edward Shaw, Madge becomes his savior when she foils her sister and brother-in-law's plot and brings in the law, but not until Shaw saves himself with his life-learned sense of paranoia. It's not the first time he's been screwed by a business associate!

One of the things I love about film noir besides the dark seedy grittiness of it all is how love affairs are portrayed. Obviously, sex scenes were not allowed in mainstream movies until more recent decades, so a lot was left to the viewers' imagination. There's a lot of desperately passionate kissing, clutching and innuendo that is severely lacking in modern day movies where pretty much everything but actual penetration is shown up front and personal where sex isn't just casual, it's just part of an average day. Ho-hum. Physical mechanics are no substitute for the artful portrayals of deep longing, passionate glances and the sad downward looks of unrequited lust amidst a cloud of cigarette smoke that occur in film noir movies.

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