LAURA

(1944)
With Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews, Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Judith Anderson
Directed by Otto Preminger
Black and White
Reviewed by JL

    A classic in many ways and on many levels, LAURA is one of the best and most atmospheric films noir of the 1940s.  It is also a more disturbing (if not necessarily more incisive) examination of obsession and necrophilia than Hitchcock's VERTIGO.  Dana Andrews plays an elbow-bending detective who falls in love with the portrait of a dead (or so it seems) woman; Gene Tierney is the woman in the portrait, impossibly beautiful yet more ordinary of character than certain objectifying fantasies would have it; and Vincent Price is a ne'er-do-well socialite and ex-flame of Laura, now engaged in a gigolo-"patroness" relationship with Judith Anderson.  These would be plenty of memorable characters for most films, but they all take a back seat to Clifton Webb's tour-de-force as epicene drama critic Waldo Lydecker.  In all, LAURA is a masterful study of depravity that differs from similarly themed contemporary films in that Production Code restrictions required a focus on the characters, rather than the depravity.  In doing so, it makes for a more trenchant work than could ever be achieved with a more gratuitous approach.  If you want to interpret the second half of the film as a dream, that's fine with me, but you'd be wrong.  I think.  5 - JL

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