I’m very afraid that I haven’t understood this movie. I knew the film was about a cop falling in love with the murder victim he’s investigating, but the film somehow was still not what I expected. I seem to be alone in my lack of overwhelming admiration for this film noir classic, so let’s see what my problem is, shall we?
The film begins with Detective McPherson (Dana Andrews) going to interview Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb) about the murder of his friend, Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney). He reveals in flashback how he helped advance her career and blocked potential suitors. It’s pretty clear that he’s obsessed with her. He also investigates Laura’s fiance, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price), who was having affairs with two other women. The case doesn’t make much headway, but McPherson becomes increasingly obsessed with Laura. One night when McPherson is creepily “investigating” in her apartment, she turns up, completely alive. This makes everyone all the more suspicious to McPherson, as he has to figure out who actually died in Laura’s apartment and who killed her.
I suppose the biggest reason why this movie confuses me so much is that it didn’t take any of the approaches I thought it would. For example, Lydecker says something to McPherson about how he’s in love with Laura and how she’s a disappointment now that she’s turned up alive, rather than being a perfect ideal. I thought maybe the film would have gone into that more, but it doesn’t. That supremely intriguing thought just sits there, forgotten, while the investigation marches on. In fact, you can’t even really tell anything about any of the characters and their feelings in this movie except Lydecker. All you really know about McPherson is that he’s a cop and he loves Laura. What an interesting guy!
To be fair, Lydecker is a pretty interesting character. I couldn’t help but increasingly despise him over the course of the film’s running time, but nevertheless he’s the only real character the film has. He’s sarcastic and extremely annoying, self-centered, and creepily and possessively obsessed with Laura. My the midpoint of the film, I basically questioned the validity of everything that came out of his mouth concerning Laura because his perspective doesn’t really seem reliable when it involves her. This had me developing a whole elaborate theory about Laura faking her own death, when the simplest explanation actually did turn out to be the right one when all was said and done. But back to character depth, things do get more interesting with regards to the Lydecker/Laura relationship in the final moments of the film.
It can’t really be considered the film’s fault for not going where I thought it would, in fact that would normally be a good thing. However, in this case it just became somewhat of a let down as the thoughts my mind was running away with turned out to be more interesting to me than what was going on in the film itself. That sounds terrible and it pretty much is, but I’m sure this is a movie I’m not going to understand until I get a rewatch. I’ll give it points for Lydecker’s character; even if he’s a terrible person he is interesting, and hopefully when I watch it again I’ll find more depth elsewhere as well.
“Murder is my favorite crime.”
Long story short: 3/4 stars
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