|RAGE IN HEAVEN (1941)|
W.S. Van Dyke
|"The world is full of Ward's. She was bound to meet one sooner or later."|
|Time: 85 mins.|
Rating: Not Rated
SYNOPSIS: Old friends Ward and Phillip both become smitten with Phillip's mother's attractive young secretary Stella. Stella marries Phillip and attempts to stand by him as his behavior becomes more and more erratic and his jealousy of Ward increases.
BOTTOM LINE:Bergmanís stunning countenance and two decent leading men canít save the overly melodramatic nature of this picture. Adapted from a popular novel of the time, this story of uncontrolled jealousy and madness could have been more entertaining if it wasnít so obvious. The fact that the film was tinkered with by three directors doesnít help matters. The pacing is slow and stiff. Only Ingridís youthful energy breaks up the monotony of Montgomeryís constant anger and dementia. His character has no subtlety, which makes it hard to feel sorry for him or look at him as anything other than a complete nutter. Given that Sandersí character has double the charm and intelligence itís hard to understand why Bergmanís Stella chooses Phillip over Ward. Granted, Phillipís mother rescued her and gave her a home, but just how far should gratitude take you? It doesnít take a psychiatrist to see how obsessed Phillip is with Ward and his overwhelming jealousy quickly creates the one scenario he was most worried about Stella leaving him for Ward. Because we know he really is crazy thereís very little shock generated by Phillips's uninhibited actions. If they had hid his mental illness the film would have had more tension and intrigue. We would have had to guess whether he was just making everything up or if maybe he was right about Ward and Stella, drawing us into the story.
As it stands, when he truly goes off the deep end and attempts to ruin Ward and Stellaís future happiness from the grave, the story gets even more ridiculous and strident. While Phillipís plan is intensely clever, itís too little, too late. Whatís worse, as exaggerated as Montgomeryís portrayal is, once heís out of the picture, the film loses the only spark of energy it had. Bergman is lovely, but this was filmed in her first year in Hollywood and her inexperience shows. The final act has Stella and a psychiatrist Dr. Rameau (Homolka) desperately trying to save Ward from the noose. Their efforts are so frantic, and the acting so histrionic I had to stop myself from laughing. If a manís life wasnít at stake, the scenes with them racing about the countryside trying to find evidence to clear Ward could have been found in a screwball comedy. This is mostly Homolkaís fault. Heís playing to an audience that isnít there, his gestures and delivery almost done for laughs. I just couldnít take him seriously. Not the worst movie ever made, RAGE has some well-done moments, there just arenít enough of them to generate a consistent tone or pace. Lack of character depth doesnít help the situation. Fans of Bergman and Montgomery will find enough to like, however, there are way better films about madness on the market than this one. Like Bergmanís SPELLBOUND for one.