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The Fearmakers (1958)

Posted: June 13th, 2009, 8:00 pm
by MissGoddess
I looked for a thread on this movie but found none---if I overlooked it, please point me
to the right one and I'll copy my post there.

OK last night I watched a really good film noir: THE FEARMAKERS, directed
by Jacques Tourneur and starring the wonderful Dana Andrews. I was very
much "on the edge of my seat" for most of it and thought it featured a really
intelligent script and interesting performances from a cast that was made up
of both familiar and unfamiliar faces.

The story is basically about a soldier who returns to Washington D.C. after a harrowing
time serving in Communist Chinese P.O.W. camps where he was tortured. He is
left with blinding headaches and of course, nightmares, but that's only the beginning
for what's waiting for him at home. He and another guy had started a public relations
firm in D.C. before Andrews was recalled to duty in Korea. Now that he's back the
firm is now bigger, flashier and more successful---and no longer his. It seems his
partner sold the firm out unbeknownst to him and now he has to figure out why and
what the new operators are after.

Tourneur keeps the pacing tight and yet leaves Andrews' (barely) enough room to
create a tense and affecting characterization and, as I said, the script for the most
part avoids too much triteness. Where it starts to lose credibility is the rather overdone
ending, which seems to belong to a more action-oriented film. I'd like to have maybe
seen this film stretched out a little longer, given us more time to savor even more suspense
but it's definitely still worth watching and I highly recommend it.

The movie starts out on the plane to D.C. and Andrews' curious seat companion, played
by an actor who could have been Jose Ferrer's stand-in, Oliver Blake. He's one reason
I wanted the film to go on longer because he basically disappears after this important,
initial contact.

The somewhat over-the-top climactic scene takes place in Lincoln's lap. How's that
for subtlety? :D Still, it's nicely composed.

One of the familiar...faces...Veda Ann Borg who makes a surprising type of Fellow Traveller...


Re: The Fearmakers (1958)

Posted: June 15th, 2009, 4:41 pm
by Dewey1960
Wow, MissG, what a fantastic, bang-up job on THE FEARMAKERS. This is a major favorite Tourneur film for me and I'm really glad you enjoyed it, something that is totally evident by your incisive comments. Tourneur had probably one of the most modern sensibilities of the Golden Age directors. No matter how dated some of the notions or the fashions might be to some, his visual friskiness makes his films seem fresh and new, even after many viewings. And you can always count on a well-populated background cast of players who add significantly to the foreground; you mentioned the incredible Oliver Blake (I can't recall ever seeing him in another film, although I'm sure I have) and he's only one of many. And yes, I understand why you might feel the climax is a bit overdone, but that whole ending is shot and cut so amazingly that it belies that fact that it's in a film that's over 50 years old. As cold-war-themed noirs go, I'd put this one near the top of a list which might include CITY OF FEAR (59), THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE (62), KISS ME DEADLY (55), SHACK OUT ON 101 (55) and INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (56).

Tourneur's gift for poetic visual interpretation is what really propels his work; his 40s noirs, OUT OF THE PAST and THE LEOPARD MAN nearly defy criticism (LEOPARD MAN, part of the Val Lewton canon, is usually mislabeled as a horror film, largely because all of the others in that group (more or less) are but in truth LEOPARD MAN is pure, undiluted noir in both appearance and substance, it's so-called horror elements merely an illusion maintained in an attempt to veil the actual meaning of the story. And it was, after all, based on a novel by Cornell Woolrich!)

Thanks too, for finding those great FEARMAKERS pics!!

Re: The Fearmakers (1958)

Posted: June 15th, 2009, 6:45 pm
by MissGoddess
Hi Dewey! Thank you for your kind words. I look forward to watching this one again and again,
it was that entertaining. I know what you mean about its timelessness---in fact, I was surprised
to learn it was from 1958 becuase it looked and felt like vintage Tourneur of the 1940s. I feel that
many movies from the 40s wear better than those from the late 50s. Don't know just why.

Re: The Fearmakers (1958)

Posted: November 23rd, 2009, 5:11 pm
by ken123
Mr Blake was also in the same directors Out of the Past. He was the superintendent/ manager of the building where the lawyer was killed. :D