Starring: Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer and Charles Bickford
The wife of a successful psychoanalyst is arrested for shoplifting. Luckily her reputation is saved by a smooth talking hypnotist. She ends up being implicated in a murder but cannot remember whether she committed it or not.
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‘Whirlpool’ is a classic psychological thriller in a film noir that is highly entertaining if not a bit inaccurate in regards to mental problems such as kleptomania. Although this can be forgiven, considering that this was filmed at the end of the 1940’s, two decades before the kleptomania was fully distinguished as a mental problem and understood.
The film begins with Ann Sutton (Gene Tierney) leaving a shop, she is quickly apprehended by the store detective who finds that she has stolen an expensive pin. This is witnessed by David Korvo (Jose Ferrer) he speaks with the store manager and explains that she must suffer from kleptomania; he gets her off the hook and organises to meet her later. At their later meeting he invites her to a party being thrown in his honour by a Hollywood socialite. Here he hypnotises Mrs Sutton for the first time under the guise of helping her sleep. Later Mrs Sutton in a trance like state removes several patient recordings from her husband’s office and then goes to a Ms. Theresa Randolph’s house, she had met her earlier and told her to stay away from Korvo. Ann finds her strangled to death.
The script was written by the man called “the Shakespeare of Hollywood”, Ben Hecht, under the pseudonym, Lester Barstow due to being blacklisted in England from 1948-1951 and Andrew Solt. The dialogue and story are very intricate, you really are never quite sure whether Korvo the hypnotist is responsible for the murder or whether someone else is responsible and he is doing his best to help the police particularly during a scene in the hospital where Ann’s husband, Dr. William Sutton (Richard Conte) comes to confront Korvo. .
Jose Ferrer’s acting is brilliant in this film; one particularly intense scene is when he hypnotises himself in an attempt to not feel pain. This role was at the very beginning of his career. And watching ‘Whirlpool’ we can see why he had such a long and varied career in the 50’s and 60’s.
Gene Tierney is just as brilliant, this was her second collaboration with director Otto Preminger. One of the best scenes that show off her excellent acting skills is when she finally confesses that she is a thief and the reasons why she became a kleptomaniac.
‘Whirlpool’ is a classic and should be on anybody’s top five film noir style movies. It is a veritable showcase of awesome acting, great writing and perfect direction