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The Verdict

Posted by martinteller on November 25, 2012

“Come, Victor, I have a delightful stabbing for you to illustrate.”
“Oh no, I’ve done three stabbings in a row.  How about a nice strangling for a change?”

I’m going to reveal nothing about the plot of this film.  I will just say it’s a satisfying whodunit/howdunit and it’s best to go in with no knowledge or preconceived notions.

Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet are one of cinema’s great pairings.  Like a noir Laurel & Hardy, they bounce off each other beautifully, and it’s too bad that some of their movies together don’t feature nearly enough of the two of them interacting.  Both are quite enjoyable here, especially when they share the screen.  Lorre is particular is a joy, sporting a gleefully macabre sensibility.  I was also delighted to see Joan Lorring — teamed with Greenstreet and Lorre the same year in Three Strangers — in the cast, I’ve liked her in everything I’ve seen.  I wish she had more screen time here, but she makes the most of it as the Victorian era equivalent of a shabby noir dame.

Whodunits aren’t really my thing — the urge to keep second-guessing the movie always gets in the way — but as far as they go, this is one of the better examples of the formula.  It’s a fine feature debut for director Don Siegel, who would go on to do The Lineup, one of my all-time favorites.  This isn’t nearly as gritty, but it does have some dark implications.  The photography is quite nice, with the foggy and underlit locales bringing a healthy dose of atmosphere.  The lead performances are highly entertaining, and there’s some fun supporting work, particularly from Rosalind Ivan as the hysterical landlady and Clyde Cook in a very brief appearance as an expert burglar.  Well worth watching for mystery fans.  Rating: Very Good (81)

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