Monday, June 13, 2011

Cause For Alarm! (1951)

Housewife Noir

- Ellen Jones is a loyal housewife stressed under the task of caring for her ailing - and increasingly demented - husband George inside their immaculate suburban home. Soon Ellen longs for the days of just "stressful" when George, consumed by a violent delusion, informs her of how he has, in a letter to the District Attorney (that Ellen herself had mailed earlier that day!), convincingly framed her and his doctor Grahame of being in cahoots together in an attempt to murder him. When George suddenly dies of his illness, thus making the letter indisputable, Ellen now has to find some way of regaining possession of the letter before she and Dr. Grahame go to jail for a crime they did not commit. It is a.... that's right, you guess it: CAUSE FOR ALARM!

Cause For Alarm! is an entertaining and worthwhile, albeit not spectacular, lightweight noir thriller. Lacking similar deep, dark picture or themes of other definitive films noir, it might be difficult to brand Cause For Alarm! a film noir at all had it not been for the featured paranoia, frame-up, and few shadowy scenes in the final act. However, the film's setting inside the sun-kissed suburbs and focus on the loyal housewife gives Cause For Alarm! a kind of unique noir feel – almost a noir for the 50s American housewife.

Loretta Young headlines as that housewife, Ellen, and really carries the film. Dodging the rest of the walking set pieces that are the rest of the cast, Young delivers a fiery and compelling performance as a desperate good woman stuck in a horrible situation. In conjunction with the bits of plot twists and suspense successfully executed by director Tay Garnett (The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946), Bataan (1943)) Young makes Cause For Alarm! a worthwhile 74 minutes for noir and thriller enthusiasts.

CBC Rating: 7/10

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