Cinema: The New Pictures, Aug. 2, 1954

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Junior-Executive Swagger. There is never an instant, in fact, when Director Hitchcock is not in minute and masterly control of his material: script, camera, cutting, props, the handsome set constructed from his ideas, the stars he has Hitched to his vehicle. Actor Stewart happily downplays his boyish charm, comes through strongly as Hitchcock's principal agent in creating suspense out of casual incident. Actress Kelly, a Hitchcock worker in Dial M for Murder and now working in his next picture, plays the career girl with a subtle junior-executive swagger, a good deal of wit, and a sort of U.H.F. sex that not everybody will be able to hear. As for Thelma Ritter, who plays a visiting nurse, she is probably the only actress alive who can stick a thermometer in a man's mouth and say, without a hint of affectation: "See if you can break a hundred."

So much to the good. To the bad are the occasional studied lapses of taste and, more important, the eerie sense a Hitchcock audience has of reacting in a manner so carefully foreseen as to seem practically foreordained. "It makes you want to fool him by reacting some other way," said another moviemaker, "but you can't. You're condemned to enjoyment."

Desires (Meteor-Fama; Grand Prize Films) is the first German film in several years that is worth the expense of its subtitles. It starts as a brisk thriller about a drug-addicted ballerina who pilfers her poison from an apothecary's safe. But soon the picture is twisting through some gothic involutions of motive, and it finishes in one of those duels of abstractions the Germans love and almost manage to make believable.

Threatened with legal action and financial ruin because of the missing morphine, the apothecary begs the ballerina to give it back. She refuses. A little later she had a heart attack, and the apothecary's wife, filling out a prescription of strychnine for the patient, has the perfect opportunity to do her in. While light and darkness moil and wrangle, the wife makes her inner decision.

The photography is first-class in a murkily introspective way, and the ballerina (Sybil Werden), the druggist (O. W. Fischer) and his wife (Heidemarie Hatheyer) are steadily excellent. There is some quiet kidding of second-string ballet companies, and a thrilling, light-splashed rush through the country in a carriage. But all too often the moviegoer is deafened by the tinkling symbols (e.g., spiders to signify evil thoughts, scales to balance vice and virtue) that clamor in the background.

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