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USA 1950
Directed by
Otto Preminger
97 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2 stars


Despite being recouped by French Nouvelle Vague cinéastes, Jean-Luc Godard and Jacques Rivette, Whirlpool simply does not work. The main problem is the script by Ben Hecht (who used the pseudonym Lester Barstow because of a HUAC backlist) and Andrew Solt which is so cursory as to be nonsensical.
José Ferrer plays David Korvol, a Svengali-like creature of unctuous charms who preys on wealthy women with his drawing room hypnotism and, one presumes although the Hays Office would hardly have permitted it to be implied, let alone shown, bedroom skills. Into his web of deceit falls Anne Sutton (Gene Tierney), the beautiful, kleptomaniacal wife of Los Angeles psychologist Dr. Bill Sutton (Richard Conte). With diabolical ease Korval frames Anne into taking the rap for the murder of his former mistress, Theresa Randolph (Barbara O'Neill), who was also a patient of Anne's husband and who wanted him to repay the $60,000 he swindled from her, Korval establishes an alibi by having his gall bladder removed.
If the script, which typifies 1940s fondness for “psychiatric” themes, is pure tosh, the casting does nothing to help it. Ferrer is a good character actor and handles his prolix lines with style but as a gigolo he is far from credible. But even less likely is Richard Conte as a hot-shot psychiatrist. Tierney is much more suited to her role as the compromised wife but in such a cobbled-together production is unable to suggest her character's emotional vulnerability.
Filtered through French critical values Preminger's interest in psychological themes was no doubt indicative of an auteurial signature (he also. as here, often functioned as producer of his films) that over-rode the merits or otherwise of the film but taken in itself and compared to similar studio output (take for example The Lady Gambles, released the previous year) Whirlpool is a misbegotten affair. 




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