ANGEL FACE (1952) 

Jean Simmons
Robert Mitchum
Mona Freeman
Herbert Marshall
Leon Ames
Barbara O'Neil
Kenneth Tobey
Raymond Greenleaf
Jim Backus

Otto Preminger



Time: 91 mins.
Rating: Not Rated
Genre: Drama/Film-Noir

SYNOPSIS: When Mrs. Tremayne is mysteriously poisoned with gas, ambulance driver Frank Jessup meets her refined but sensuous stepdaughter Diane, who quickly pursues and infatuates him. Under Diane's seductive influence, Frank is soon the Tremayne chauffeur; but he begins to suspect danger under her surface sweetness. When he shows signs of pulling away, Diane schemes to get him in so deep he'll never get out.

BOTTOM LINE: Simmons is a bad, bad girl and it's her perfectly controlled, yet intrinsically crazy performance that keeps this melodrama intriguing. What's makes this film so fun for the viewer is that there's never any doubt how psycho Diane is, yet you're drawn into her lies just like her friends and family, most of whom are not going to make it out of this picture alive. Even Mitchum, who plays a regular guy with a pretty good nose for trouble can't seem to disentangle himself from her charms. Sure, Diane appears to be a sweet and dutiful daughter, but if she doesn't get her way, you better literally watch your back. Simmons walks a fine line in her portrayal of Diane, enabling you to actually feel sorry for her despite her sinister ways. Mitchum is equally disreputable as her patsy/love interest, a man who leaves the arms of a good woman to take up with one that better suits his ambitions. It's their undeniable chemistry that raises the quality of this piece.

He's somewhat more sympathetic, since he didn't ask for Diane's attentions, but he doesn't exactly refuse them either. Granted, there's no way he could've have predicted the outcome of their supposedly random acquaintance. Though the ending is no surprise – after all she said over and over again she wouldn't let him go – its power is somewhat dimmed by the fact that he really should have known better than to trust her. He almost got the death penalty for murders he KNOWS she committed, and yet he comes back to get his things? Are you kidding me? As shocking as the final images of them are – when she ensures that he'll never leave her – their final moments are more laughable than horrifying. It's hard to even feel sorry for him after watching him be so wretchedly stupid. The lesson learned here: when someone says they have nothing to live for but you, run don't walk to the nearest exit.

"You hate that woman and someday you're gonna hate her enough to kill her."

While the film focuses on Diane and her machinations, it's creepy and alluring, however, once the dirty deed is done most of the air goes out of the enterprise. You still can't take your eyes off her, but it's pretty clear where the film is going, which takes the thrill out of the ride. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Simmons, this is a good introduction to her talent (and one of her first big roles), though certainly not one of the best films she's ever been in. Mitchum fans won't be disappointed or impressed. He's competant as the slick fellow with a dream, but there's nothing about his part that is memorable, except that he's playing it. All in all, ANGEL FACE is well-paced, well-written and well-acted for the genre, however, there's just not enough complexity behind Simmon's delicate facade to make it truly great. If you've ever seen the mother of all wicked woman flicks LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN, you'll know what I mean.

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