Sudden Fear (1952) 4.14/5 (1)


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Rating: The Good – 77.8
Genre: Film-Noir
Duration: 110 mins
Director: David Miller
Stars: Joan Crawford, Jack Palance, Gloria Grahame

This elegantly sculpted film-noir begins with successful playwright Joan Crawford being seduced by an unusually charismatic young actor in the form of Jack Palance. It’s not long before their courtship blossoms into a seemingly perfect marriage and in the process, transforming Crawford’s once uptight and stifled spinster into a love-struck romantic. That is until a fast and loose blond bombshell shows up from her husband’s past and in the midst of the inevitable and sultry affair, the two former lovers plot to kill the wealthy bride so they can claim her estate.

Sudden Fear is classic noir territory. The film is full to the brim with psychological and emotional suspense as director David Miller sends the audience in all directions from early points in the film right up until the end. Crawford is in commanding form while playing a complicated lead. Though her character is strong and self-sufficient, Crawford sews a subtle weakness into her personality which logically explain many of the decisions she makes throughout. Palance is terrific and while his character is not as overtly tough as those he built his reputation on, his gold-digging manipulations are thick with menace. His devious partner is played with typical zeal by Gloria Grahame who fleshes out her own little sub-plot so well that she ably manages to hold her own with Crawford and Palance.

Sudden Fear looks the part too. Miller brings a heavy atmosphere to the film and even in the earlier more romantic scenes, he constantly manages to convey the impending trouble through some clever framing of Palance’s character and seriously moody lighting. However, it’s the later darker scenes where Miller really turns on the style and, with two sequences in particular, he demonstrates some supreme innovation with no small help from his editor and Crawford herself. On top of that, there’s a brilliantly conceived finale, which is Hitchcockian in spirit and shot with a breathless tension. It may not be as well remembered as some of the great noirs but Sudden Fear tells as sharp and tight a story of suspense as the best of them.

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