Noir-vember 2014: The Glass Web
Posted by martinteller on November 4, 2014
“What we’re selling is realism. The people who watch our show every Wednesday night want to eavesdrop on murder. They want to smell the stink of murder, they love it! And they watch our show instead of the others because they know I give them the truth!”
The seductive Paula Ranier (Kathleen Hughes), occasional actress on the “Crime of the Week” television program, is a busy gal. On the one hand, she’s been dating head writer Don Newell (John Forsythe), sponging him for “loans” at every opportunity. Don eventually gets a case of the guilts, but when he dumps her, Paula blackmails him… if he doesn’t pay, she’ll spill everything to his wife Louise (Marcia Henderson). On the other hand, Paula’s also been seeing Henry Hayes (Edward G. Robinson). Henry is a technical advisor for the show, and he’s often frustrated by Don’s lack of attention to detail. Henry thinks he’s got something special with Paula, but she throws him over when she realizes he can do little for her pocketbook or her career. Both men, unbeknownst to each other, have a motive to kill her. One of them does, but the evidence points to the other.
The film opens with a man throwing his harping wife down a well. Then the camera pulls back to reveal that the cheap-looking set is in fact a cheap-looking set, an introduction to the nice meta aspects of this film. Henry is obsessed with getting the details right, and for the most part, this movie excels in covering the details. Everything seems to pay off and tie together, and seemingly insignificant minutiae can affect the flow of the story. It’s often the little things that make a tale compelling, and/or give it a ring of truth.
It’s a really fun movie. I love how the script toys with who knows what and who doesn’t know what. Robinson shines in a part that’s almost a hybrid of his parts in Scarlet Street and Double Indemnity. Hughes exemplifies that misogynist 50’s image of the “bad girl”, the dangerous siren who uses her sex appeal to lure men to their doom (Forsythe’s character is of course instantly forgiven for his extramarital transgressions, by the screenplay, his wife and himself). She gets some of the best dialogue in the script, including a lengthy and scathing tearing down of Henry Hayes: “You’ll never be anything more than a glorified errand boy around the studio, a fussy little character with a tiny little job!” Also terrific is ubiquitous character actress Kathleen Freeman in a tiny but memorable role.
Oh, and the film is 3D. You wouldn’t know it — or miss it — except for one unintentionally hilarious sequence. They shoot their 3D wad on one scene of Forsythe walking the streets, mulling over his difficult situation. In the space of about two minutes, we’re treated to the following: a truck slamming on its brake, the ladder on its roof coming towards the camera; a man washing the streets sprays his hose into the camera; a bundle of fresh newspapers gets tossed at the camera; and Forsythe walks under a construction chute while rocks come hurtling at the camera. By golly, they were gonna use this 3D business somehow!
Despite the 3D nonsense (which was good for a laugh anyway), I enjoyed this one a lot. It doesn’t have a whole lot of edge to it, nor is the cinematography much to get excited over, but it’s just a well-constructed picture with Eddie G. being awesome as usual and a lot of nice details. Rating: Very Good (83)