Thursday, September 1, 2011

I Wake Up Screaming (1941)

"What's the good of living without hope?"

- The murder of a rising Hollywood talent brings her former promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), her sister Jill (Betty Grable), and a detective with a chip on his shoulder, "Big Ed" Cornell (Laird Cregar), together in this solid 1941 film noir "whodunit" flick I Wake Up Screaming.

The title does not really fit into the film specifically (not one person wakes up screaming), but it does sum up the overall dark and mysterious tone of the film well. I Wake Up Screaming is not a great film but it has plenty of visual film noir flair, good performances, and mystery to entertain.

Betty Grable and Victor Mature are terrific in their roles (as Jill and Frankie respectively) but Laird Cregar leaves a lot to be desired in his portrayal of "Big Ed." Cregar has a great looming presence, but when opens his mouth and starts talking you wish he would not, as he turns from an intimidating tough into a giant teddy bear with the mumbling of one syllable.

The score is also distracting, and in some parts just irritating, as the incredibly corny Wizard Of Oz tune "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" plays in the background many times and a blare from the horn section happens every time someone slips into a flashback (a frequent occurrence), taking away from the serious tone of the film.

However, I Wake Up Screaming is a good film to be sure - the engaging story, the great dark look of the film (there are a couple of shots in particular that are hard to forget), and the fine leading performances from Grable and Mature make the film very enjoyable.

CBC Rating: 7/10

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