Whirlpool

1949, Movie, NR, 97 mins

Review

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This compelling and rather eerie melodrama stars Tierney as a woman haunted by her habitual kleptomania. Although she is married to a highly successful psychiatrist, she cannot break the hold that stealing has over her. When she snatches a brooch from a department store, she is caught in the act. Ferrer, a bizarre hypnotist, comes to her aid and persuades the store not to prosecute Tierney. He acts not out of kindness but out of maliciousness, involving Tierney in an ingenious murder scheme. Having scammed a former mistress out of some money, Ferrer hypnotizes Tierney and sends her to the mistress' house. The mistress is already dead, however, and when the police arrive, Tierney, though innocent, is nabbed as the murderer. Conte is convinced of his wife's innocence and, with the help of investigator Bickford, is able to disprove Ferrer's alibi--that he was in the hospital for an operation--by proving that he actually hypnotized himself, temporarily left the hospital, and committed the murder. Ferrer's guilt is sealed when he returns to the murder site, again under hypnosis, in search of evidence. After a shootout, Ferrer holds his pursuers at bay, but he is wounded and soon dies from loss of blood. A strange suspenser which mixes the elements of murder and the subconscious state of hypnosis--Tierney, having been hypnotized, cannot be sure whether or not she is guilty, but the one who loves her, Conte, fights to prove her innocence. Penned by a blacklisted Ben Hecht under the pseudonym Lester Barstow, WHIRLPOOL bears a striking resemblance to another Hecht-penned suspenser, Alfred Hitchcock's SPELLBOUND. That film also mixes murder with a subconscious state--a psychoanalytic mental block--and a person innocently accused of murder, Gregory Peck, who is saved by a loved one, Ingrid Bergman. While WHIRLPOOL is gripping throughout, the material and Preminger's direction are simply a rehash of that which Hitchcock brought to the screen four years earlier. Suspiciously, Preminger's autobiography makes no mention of the film that he no doubt spent months working on. Even stranger is a quote in Gerald Pratley's study The Cinema of Otto Preminger in which the director still seems stuck in a mental block about WHIRLPOOL: "I cannot remember anything about this film." Sure. leave a comment

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