Action / Mystery / Thriller


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Cary Grant as Johnnie
Alfred Hitchcock as Man Mailing Letter
Leo G. Carroll as Captain Melbeck
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717.04 MB
23.976 fps
1hr 39 min
P/S 1 / 5
1.5 GB
23.976 fps
1hr 39 min
P/S 6 / 5

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by Dennis Littrell 7 / 10

Sustained Suspense

Cary Grant (Johnnie Aysgarth) was 37 when this was released and perhaps at the pinnacle of his sexual charm (but not at the pinnacle of his career by a long shot); and Joan Fontaine (Lina Aysgarth--not "Linda," as the video jacket mistakenly has it), 24, was fresh from her very fine performance in Rebecca (1940) alongside Laurence Olivier, also directed by Alfred Hitchcock, for which he garnered his only Best Picture Oscar. I don't think this film is nearly as good. It is saved from being something close to annoying at times only by the star power of the leads and a fine supporting cast, especially Nigel Bruce (best known perhaps as Dr. Watson in a number of Sherlock Holmes films) as Cary Grant's friend "Beaky."

The problem with the film lies partly with the casting of Cary Grant, although not in his performance as such. He was seen as such a valuable property by the studio that the proper ending of the film was considered inappropriate and so it was changed. Along the way we see a lot of mixed foreshadowing so it is impossible to tell whether his character is that of a loving husband who is a bit of a rogue or a cold-blooded murderer who married Lina for her inheritance and intends to kill her. We can see how the latter possibility might not work so well since she was only getting a subsistence allowance from the will of her father who disapproved of the marriage. And there are all those dark scowls that Grant manufactures, somewhat awkwardly I must say, to keep us in doubt. What is apparent is that Hitchcock had one ending in mind and then had to change it and wasn't able to redo some of the earlier scenes that worked better with the old ending.

At any rate, Joan Fontaine is very good, lovely, graceful and focused. With this performance she went one up on her older sister Olivia de Havilland by winning the Best Actress Oscar. And it is a bit of a spicy treat to see Cary Grant as something of a heavy, at least part of the time. For most of us, who have seen him in many films, his character has always been sterling.

I must also note that some of the production seems a bit unnatural. Grant wears his suit and tie all buttoned up even when visiting Fontaine in their bedroom (carrying the infamous glass of milk, which I understand was backlighted with a bulb inside the glass to make it almost glow). Fontaine's Lina appears mousey and bookish at the beginning (it is suggested that she was in danger of being an old maid!) but later develops a more sophisticated style. And I don't think Hitchcock or Grant really gave her enough cause for the sort of fear she experienced. The final scene with its quick about-face was not entirely convincing or conclusive either.

Contemporary audiences might wince at the plodding direction by Hitchcock. They might even wonder why he decided to make a movie from such a familiar and lightly plotted tale not far removed psychologically from a romance novel. But Hitchcock always erred on the side of giving the mass audience what he thought they wanted. What they wanted here was Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine together romantically with some mystery and doubt along the way.

(Note: Over 500 of my movie reviews are now available in my book "Cut to the Chaise Lounge or I Can't Believe I Swallowed the Remote!" Get it at Amazon!)

Reviewed by nycritic 9 / 10

I Suspect a Cop-Out Ending...

If it weren't for the Code which did not allow murderers to get away with it at the end, or the apparent miscasting of Cary Grant as the ambiguous husband, SUSPICION would rank higher as a subtle masterpiece of sheer, romantic suspense.

Over the years many critics have stated that Grant, in his first collaboration with director Alfred Hitchcock, doesn't quite convince much as a man who progressively seems to have ulterior motives with the people around him, most notably his wife. I personally believe that evil is best expressed under a facade of deadpan deceptiveness, such as the friendly neighbors in a similar thriller, ROSEMARY'S BABY. Of course, you might think: isn't this film completely different from SUSPICION? Not really. Strip away the Satanic plot and all you have is a growing sense of paranoia surrounding a similarly mousy wife who slowly realizes her husband and everyone around her is not what they seem. And we know how that film ended.

Grant is a perfect choice to play Johnnie Aysgard. He has the dark, handsome looks, that gleaming smile and loving charm and he literally sweeps spinster Lina McLaidlaw (Joan Fontaine, Oscar winner for this role) off her feet. His presence only vaguely suggests the menace hidden underneath and this is perfect for a convincing psychological, cerebral thriller. If Lon Chaney, for example, had played Aysgard, or Joseph Cotten, Orson Welles, or even Basil Rathbone for that matter, it wouldn't be hard to yell at the screen and pinpoint the villain in the story. Grant, however, is so completely at home in his ambiguousness that even in the climactic scene where he drives Fontaine to her mother's home, we still can't quite decide what his intentions are even though every added piece of evidence leads to the mounting horror that he is about to kill her.

And his presence is the reason this movie works as an excellent psychological thriller even if the ending is a letdown. Using an actor like Grant misleads the public into being sucked into the lighthearted tone of the first third of the story. Introducing the most trivial of incidents surrounding his playboy-like character, which gradually lead to more sinister ones does the tone darken and before we know it we're in the middle of a tense drama of wills between husband and wife and staring at that ghostly glass of milk, wondering if to drink or nor to drink.

Reviewed by theowinthrop 7 / 10

The Mysterious Cary Grant

The story of Lina "Monkey - face" Aysgard and her husband Johnny is from a novel by Francis Iles called BEFORE THE FACT. Hitchcock liked Iles' novels, which were unusual because the heroes were actually anti-heroes. Johnny is an upper class wastrel who is not unwilling to swindle or kill if it benefits himself. He is responsible, actually, for at least three deaths in the story. Interestingly enough, Hitch always wanted to do Iles' "Black Comedy" novel MALICE AFORETHOUGHT, as a film - possibly with Alex Guiness - wherein the anti-hero Dr. Bickley (based on Dr. Crippen and Major Herbert Armstrong) poisons his wife and several others in a charming little village in the English countryside. Unfortunately, Hitch never got to do MALICE AFORETHOUGHT (but it has been done on BBC television once or twice).

He had just pocketed the "Oscar" (for the only time in his career, by the way) for REBECCA - his first American film. Hitch apparently thought he could do anything. He was now to discover he could not do everything.

To begin with, Iles' novel ended with Johnny facing the loss of his wife (but in a curious switch - Lina willingly takes the poison he brings her, and actually destroys him emotionally because Johnny was secretly ashamed of this crime - he really loved Lina and she kills herself to help him out). If the Hays and Breen offices had any imagination they would have realized that the film would have been so far better and more moral if they had left the ending alone. Johnny would have been too cowardly to ever kill himself, and would have gone to his grave realizing what he threw away. It would have been a worse punishment than if Johnny had been hanged.

But the censors would have none of it. If Lina died Johnny must be punished. Hitch played around with changing the ending (he did this frequently in his adaptations of novels). He would have had Lina write a note to her mother, explaining that she knew Johnny was going to kill her, but she loved him and would let him. Johnny would poison her with her evening milk, and then (while happily whistling) post the letter to her mother (Dame May Witty).

Here he came acropper with another portion of the Hollywood scene: Cary Grant's agent and RKO Studio. Both were very image conscious, but that image was comic or dapper or likable - but not murderous. Grant himself would have enjoyed the change (ten years later he might have tried to do it with Hitch that way*). But in 1941 too many interested parties were opposed. As a result, Grant's part had to be rewritten.

(*A few years later, Grant appeared in MR. LUCKY, as a gambler who decides to commit a fraud regarding a war effort charity. He does use violence several times in the film, but he reforms against his partner in the fraud - though he violently kicks him in a fight - and ends up enlisting in the army. That and his role as Ernie in NONE BUT THE LONELY HEART were the two closest negative parts he had after SUSPICION, and neither is a total villain.)

Johnny remains a charming wastrel, who loves gambling, and who depends on others to pay for him. But he is struggling to try to go legitimate, and in his best scene in the film (when he is trying to get financing from Nigel Bruce for a building project) he shows a sense of reality that is just missing from most of the film. He turns on Joan Fontane, who thinks Grant is planning something crooked at the expense of his friend Bruce and begins "gumming up the works" of his business deal. Actually one sees there what the film might have been like, but it was a rare moment of real juice in the movie.

Grant does as well with the part as he can, as does Fontane (who won the Best Actress Oscar award). But it is a hollow victory in the film. Best are Nigel Bruce as Beaky Thwaite, Johnny's close, doomed friend (and in the novel his victim). Also in a brief role is Leo G. Carroll as Johnny's cousin and employer who is swindled by him. Carroll only has one brief scene, but is memorable as one of the few outsiders who calls Johnny's character correctly.

In later years, after he showed his box office success, Hitch would be able to make his central figures negative ones. As pointed out elsewhere on this thread, Joseph Cotton would be "Uncle Charlie" the murderer in SHADOW OF A DOUBT within two years. Later on he would do THE PARADINE CASE, where defendant Alida Valli was guilty, and STAGE FRIGHT, where suspect Richard Todd lies partially about the crime to the audience at the start.

I have one particular complaint. Johnny borrows a volume from the Notable British Trial series from a neighbor who is a mystery novelist. It is the trial of a 19th Century poisoner who once killed a victim by betting the victim that he could drink a bumper of brandy without stopping for breath. This (when Fontane hears of it) resembles the death of Bruce. This actually happened in the 1850s to a notorious poisoner who was a gambler. He was Dr. Palmer of Rugeley. And there is a volume of the Notable British Trial series about Palmer. But it was Dr. WILLIAM Palmer historically. In the movie the volume is clearly labeled THE TRIAL OF RICHARD PALMER. Somebody did not do their research properly

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