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20th Century Fox presents
Whirlpool (1949)

"I'm mixed up, Bill!"
- Ann Sutton (Gene Tierney)

Review By: Jeff Wilson   
Published: September 15, 2005

Stars: Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer, Charles Bickford
Other Stars: Fortunio Bonanova, Barbara O'Neil, Constance Collier
Director: Otto Preminger

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for mild gun play
Run Time: 01h:37m:10s
Release Date: September 06, 2005
UPC: 024543177302
Genre: film noir

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B+ B-A-A- C

DVD Review

Otto Preminger's Whirlpool isn't your typical noir, but it's fun ride with a fine villain in Jose Ferrer. Gene Tierney stars as Ann Sutton, your standard society housewife, but she's a woman with a problem: she suffers from kleptomania. We first see her getting pinched for swiping a $300 brooch at a department store, but she's rescued by David Korvo (Ferrer), a smooth operator who knows exactly who Mrs. Sutton is. Having helped her slip out of the clutches of the store detective, Korvo begins working Ann over. She's clearly sick, and he can help her. He's something of a quack (okay, he's a total quack), but his personal magnetism is such that Ann doesn't have much luck resisting him. Plus, her husband, William (Richard Conte), is such a straight-arrow that it isn't hard to imagine she'd find the slick Korvo interesting. Once in his "care" however, Ann quickly finds herself at the center of a murder investigation, and everything points toward Ann as the killer. Korvo has what looks like an airtight alibi—he was in the hospital for surgery when the murder took place.

One of the film's themes is the lack of understanding between people, or more precisely, between husbands and wives. We see early on that the Suttons' marriage is rather superficial; after her shoplifting fiasco, Ann wants desperately to confess her kleptomania to William, but her resolve crumbles and her perfect spouse's mask is back in place once he enters the room. She clearly doesn't, or doesn't want to, understand his job as a psychoanalyst either, putting down his patients and assuming that he doesn't really want to do it—he'd rather be writing a book instead of dealing with those nasty old sick people. So the foundation for mistrust between them is ready to be exploited when Korvo steps into the scene.

Korvo is every inch a predator, whatever his claims of trying to help others sound like. Ann, finding someone who might be able to get her through her problems,refuses to believe he could be anything other than a savior, even when she is told he's a swindler. Why she would believe in a guy who practices astrology and other shady operations must be down to Korvo's charm, as he otherwise is basically an ass. He is good enough at what he does to have gotten away with it so far (given the lazy society types he preys on), though he puts together a scheme to erase his latest conquest that has to be seen to be believed.

Ferrer makes for an interesting villain; he's supremely oily to the men he meets, perhaps seeing them all as competition for the women he needs to bilk. His hospital scene with William oozes contempt on his part. A scene with a would-be suicide (Fortunio Bonanova) sees Korvo so over the top in his obnoxiousness that the fellow's wide-eyed admiration of Korvo's skills is far too much to be believable. Conte is a bit too wooden; it would have been nice to see him show the odd emotion here or there. As Ann, the picture revolves around Tierney, and she's good for the most part, though she too seems reluctant to really let go of her emotions.

The film is still quite entertaining; despite the gaps in logic within the script. The film's use of psychoanalysis seems fairly heavy-handed and simplistic, with William looking like a fairly clueless practitioner of the art. Still, Tierney and Ferrer make this work a look.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: B-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Unlike your standard noir, this doesn't have a whole lot of night scenes, but it looks very good all the same. A crisp picture with good detail, and a nice contrast level make for an excellent viewing experience.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglish, Spanishyes
DS 2.0Englishyes

Audio Transfer Review: The original English mono, English 2.0 stereo, and Spanish mono are the choices on offer here, and the mono track was the one I watched the film with. It's a pleasing track, with very little to complain about.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
7 Other Trailer(s) featuring Call Northside 777, The Dark Corner, House of Bamboo, Laura, , , The Street With No Name
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Film critic Richard Schickel
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The main extra, as with all the Fox Noir series, is a commentary, this time by film critic Richrd Schickel, and it's merely okay. I'm not sure what else to say about it, really. He covers the main actors, and discusses the film in a general way, without getting into a great deal of heavy detail. The theatrical trailer, and trailers for seven other Fox Noir titles are included as well.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

A slick ride of a murder tale, with a cleverly constructed crime, even if it does push the boundaries of believability a bit too far. This installment of the Fox Noir series has a nice transfer and a decent commentary.


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