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OTTO PREMINGER DIRECTS GENE TIERNEY IN 'WHIRLPOOL'

Year: 1949
Before Jose Ferrer played loathsome, despicable villains he played classy, intellectual, sophisticated ones... In Otto Preminger's WHIRLPOOL starring his own LAURA actress Gene Tierney as a bored wife of a rich and famous psychiatrist in Richard Conte, she meets our manipulating super-skinny heavy who's not so bad at first, helping her out of a real jam after she's caught shoplifting items she could easily afford...

Because of a mysterious, troubled childhood and wanting to keep her problem a secret at home, Tierney's put-upon Ann Sutton can't depend on her husband as a shrink. Making Ferrer's Dr. David Korvo the perfect match: his treatment using hypnosis just might successfully reach back into her subconscious. And like all Film Noir melodramas there's a big catch in attempting a short cut... Soon enough she's doing his dirty work, and eventually the "Wrong Man," or in this case "Wrong Woman" or simply put "Falsely Accused" sub-genre kicks into gear, and that's where the movie, only halfway through, wanes considerably.

Whirlpool SCORE: **1/2
Not that the buildup was anything extraordinary, other than Preminger's camerawork that can turn mere conversations into visually hypnotic chess matches. How he sticks to his leading lady isn't as mesmerizing as LAURA, and that's because of the actors surrounding...

While Richard Conte is always capable, this role as a one-dimensional nice guy is a letdown since he usually has a few tricks up his sleeve. Leaving all the punch to Ferrer, who plays a good enough snake but hardly has a bite (a touch of wry Clifton Webb dark-humor is much needed).

As the tough cop from FALLEN ANGEL, Charles Bickford returns but with a lot more dimension, and he basically carries the picture. While not falling in love with a ghostly portrait like Dana Andrews, he holds an unpredictable hybrid of sympathy and contempt: It often feel like it's his case to lose, even more than Tierney herself, who has everything, including her freedom, at risk during an overlong conclusion that takes the last half to conclude.
Jose Ferrer plays cat and mouse with Gene Tierney in WHIRLPOOL
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