Sunday, 2 September 2012
Understated, assured direction and two wonderful performances turn a beautifully simple premise into a devastating, albeit not humorless journey into the darkest depths of a manipulating and, ultimately, murderess mind. Jean Simmons is mesmerising, her eyes sparkling with faux-innocence, we cannot look away. Beautiful, dangerous, unstable, she plays the quintessential femme fatal Diane Tremayne, who ensnares the simple but not altogether moral Frank Jessop (Robert Mitchum). Mitchum is great value, his broad frame practically filling the screen as he sucks down cigarettes with weary, browbeaten nonchalance. Drinking tea with Tremayne, the cup appears comically minute in his great ham fists. Preminger teases his audience with a slowly unraveling tale of misdeed, and by the time the final, heartbreaking (and wildly brave) climax is upon us, we are trembling with astonishment and sadness at how a fairly innocuous flirtation has evolved into such grand tragedy.