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Thanks to the fact that the ice was broken with the Wilder-Sistrom movie of James M. Cain's Double Indemnity, Hollywood can now get by with filming this kind of shabby "realism." The blessing is mixed. Apparently, U.S. moviegoers have matured to the point where they will stand for reasonably frank images of unhappy marriage, sour love affairs, and of a disease so gravely epidemic as Mr. Young's obsessive desire to stay in the money at all costs. But in this, as in most such "adult" movies, the semi-maturity is well mixed with trashiness.
Producer Joan Harrison & associates have brought the story to the screen with considerable skill. Mr. Young and Miss Johnson are excellent as the ill-mated man & wife; Susan Hayward proficiently sells her special brand of sexiness; Miss Greer is a comely beginner. And many of the minor roles are more sharply drawn and cast than the leads. The jury, for instance, may be caricatured, but it is frightening to consider that such a group holds in its hands a life even so patently worthless as Mr. Young's.
The Web (Universal -lnternational) is a tight, bright melodrama about a poor but fairly honest lawyer (Edmond O'Brien) who hires on to protect a suave capitalist (Vincent Price), and soon finds he is being had for a patsy. The young lawyer is tricked into killing the capitalist's ex-partner (Fritz Lieber) in apparent self-defense, and is even urged to keep dates with his boss's pet secretary (Ella Raines). With William Bendix of the New York Homicide Squad sniffing around, Lawyer O'Brien is in a very embarrassing fix. There is still another murder, set in a still fancier frame, before matters are cleared up.
The story is no more than a fair excuse for the neat moviemaking which makes this picture entertaining. It is smartly directed by Michael Gordon. Mr. Price, with his sloping charm and his foulard voice, is just what a really villainous Wall Street operator ought 'to look like. Ella Raines has a lot of sneering snap as the kind of top-grade personal secretary whq works a 168-hour week. Edmond O'Brien shows enough honest heelishness, and little enough hard-boiled mawkishness, to be one of the most likable of the tough young thriller heroes who move into Evil's den and drag it out by the short hair.
William Bowers' dialogue is conventional in the "crisp" manner, but it is also amusing, highly efficient and skillfully delivered. Sample: O'Brien's modest description of his poverty. He used to have to save up to weigh himself.