[box cover]

Whirlpool

A modest thriller, Otto Preminger's 1949 Whirlpool reunited the director with Gene Tierney, with whom he achieved his breakout film, 1944's Laura. The picture fits into the film noir mode, with Tierney as Ann Sutton, the wealthy wife of successful psychiatrist Dr. William Sutton (Richard Conte). She's caught shoplifting one day, but she gets off the hook thanks to David Korvo (Jose Ferrer), a hypnotist whom Ann employs to help her sleep. At first, she doesn't trust Korvo, but just one session proves to her that he can get her to sleep like a baby. But when their relationship is complicated by Korvo's former patient Theresa Randolph (Barbara O'Neil), shortly thereafter Theresa turns up dead, and Ann is implicated as the murderer since she was at the scene of the crime. As for Korvo, he was in the hospital during the time of Theresa's death. It's up to Lt. Colton (Charles Bickford) and Ann's husband Dr. Sutton to set things straight. As a noir title, Whirlpool is lacking the punch of complications that makes the genre appealing — Korvo is a sleaze from the get-go, and nothing happens to compromise his position, or Ann's. As such, there's something perfunctory about the whole ordeal, with none of the layers of gray that mark the best of genre. Perhaps influenced by the wave of films during the period that utilized the growing field of psychiatry (including Fritz Lang's Secret Behind the Door, which also featured O'Neil), the picture might have seemed fresher when it was released. Today it feels shopworn, especially with the idea that hypnosis can make people do stuff they don't want to. It all adds up to a movie that's not so much bad as mediocre, even at a reasonable running time (97 min.). That said, Preminger was always good with actors, and here it's Ferrer who's a standout as the wonderfully sordid, money-hungry Korvo — especially in comparison to Conte, who doesn't get to do much except look concerned. Fox presents Whirlpool as part of their "Fox Film Noir" imprint, with a good transfer in the original aspect ratio (1.33:1) and both DD 2.0 stereo and monaural audio options. Extras include a commentary by film critic and Big Red One restoration producer Richard Schickel, as well as the theatrical trailer and bonus trailers for other Fox titles. Keep-case.
—DSH



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