Friday, July 8, 2011

Tension (1949)

Tangling With A Two-Timing Tootsie
- Local pharmacist Warren Quimby is married to Claire, an extremely selfish and immature woman who wants nothing but to be spoiled. Years after their young and blind romance, Warren has turned out to not be the picturesque man that Claire had envisioned. Warren is not a wealthy or macho guy; he's short, weak, wears glasses, and is incredibly passive - not even doing anything when Claire goes out every night to go who knows where to do who knows what with who knows who.

However, when Claire leaves him for the wealthy Barney Deager, the camel's back is finally broken and Warren plans a murderous revenge. Hatching an elaborate scheme, Warren also uses contact lenses to change his look and become a new person all together - which is funny because I go from glasses to contacts to glasses every day and I always end up being the same person! Contacts or no, Warren has all the angles figured out but one: Claire.

Tension is a pretty good noir thriller; the overall story is enjoyable and, of course, includes moments of tension. However, the script could have used a bit of polishing. Unfortunately, some of the character's motives are not clear at all; some of the dialogue is pretty inane; and the finale does not wrap up the story, characters, or themes very well at all. The writing in Tension is not perfect but the main problem with the film is that it just generally lacks energy and often times gets a bit over-the-top. The film has a good look however, with great lighting and camera movements, as well as a handful of good performances.

Audrey Totter gives the most memorable performance in the film of the cunning and untamable femme fatale Claire. I may have listed Totter as one of the genre's most quintessential femme fatales if I thought her to be as beautiful as everyone in the film thinks she is. She is attractive enough but in more of a cheap hooker sort of way - and, well, if you are going to be an unforgettable femme fatale you are going to have to be drop-dead gorgeous. The rest of the cast give good performances but none of them are nearly as memorable as Totter. Whether in contacts or glasses, Richard Basehart makes Warren work; Cyd Charisse is sweet and stunning as the woman out for Warren's heart instead of his pocketbook; and William Conrad of "Cannon" and "Jake and the Fatman" fame pops up here in the film as well.

Overall, Tension has a few problems but ends up being a mostly entertaining film noir. Check it out if you are a fan of the film noir or 40s hardboiled genres, otherwise you are not going to miss much.

CBC Rating: 6/10

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