Laura - 1944
Director - Otto Preminger
Starring - Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, and Vincent Price
Laura is the story of a Detective who becomes facinated with the victim of the murder that he is assigned to investigate, the movie's namesake, Laura. Detective McPherson isn't so much a fully realized character in this story as he is a vehicle through which the audience can be introduced to, and participate in this story of un-requited love and murder. Inspite of this, or maybe even because of it, we the audience are still drawn in to the fold.
We are placed in the detective role, and are given a cast of characters from which to choose the killer. There are some red herrings in the lineup, some genuinly shady people, and some obvious innocents, but isn't that half the fun of watching a brassy noir movie anyway? Guess at the beginning and at the end seeing if you're right. (I'm happy to say that I did indeed guess correctly) We are presented with the well-to-do, writer-mentor, Waldo Lydecker, played to the hilt by a flamboyant Clifton Webb, the unfaithful, yet seemingly good natured love interest/fiance, played by a venomously charming Vincent Price, and the icy two-faced Aunt Ann Treadwell, fleshed out by Judith Anderson. It is throught the lenses of these characters that we learn about Laura Hunt, told at first through flashback. Each of them provides a different spin on the events leading up to the night Laura was murdered, and each in turn reveals more about their potential motives than the intend to.
The pace is quick. Quick enough that, at one point, we are left reeling and unsure about whether we are seeing reality or the a booze deluded dream. In the interest of not spoiling a major plot point, I won't say exactly what that event is, but rest assured that without an immediate explaination we simply have to wait and see to be sure. This , of course, only leads to more questions about conspiracy, motives, and method.
Despite really enjoying Laura, I'd have to say that this movie didn't have nearly the effect on my that some others noirs, such as "The Third Man", "Sunset Boulevard", or "Out of the Past", did. It's almost unfair to judge any movie this way, these movies helped introduce me to, and cultivate my appreciation and love of the film noir genre. Still I think the comparison holds water because of the shared subject matter, the bent reality that the audience is presented with from the beginning, the hoops the characters must jump through along the way, and the long twisty, torturous path towards the truth that our hero (and by extension, we) must travel.
Laura was a solid, thouroughly enjoyable movie. From the deep shadows of this duplicitous world, to the campy excess of Vincent Price, and Clifton Webb, Laura never faltered in it's execution, and it never failed to keep my attention. Bravo.