Wednesday, 4 November 2015

The Paradine Case - film review

The Paradine Case is a 1948 film by Alfred Hitchcock, in which the Master of Suspense tried his hand at a courtroom drama. It's an American film, with notable American actors in two of the leading roles, but it's set in Britain, mainly at the Old Bailey and in a somewhat thinly evoked Cumberland (where one of the locals speaks in a bizarre mixture of cod-Northern accents - dear old Hitchcock may have been a Brit, but I don't think he had much of a clue about the North of England.)

The set-up is this. A wealthy blind man has been poisoned. His attractive foreign wife (played by Alida Valli, credited simply as Valli) is charged with his murder. Charles Coburn is her solicitor, and he hires Tony Keane (Gregory Peck), a top defence barrister, to represent her. Things start to go awry when Tony unwisely falls in love with his client, much to the distress of his wife. She is played by Ann Todd, who was born in Hartford, thus making her one of the very few famous actresses to hail from my old stamping ground, Northwich!

Tony travels to the scene of the crime in the Lake District, where he encounters the deceased's moody valet (Louis Jourdan), whose bizarre behaviour seems highly suspicious.  There are various possibilities. The accused may be guilty, she may have conspired with the valet, the valet may be guilty, or the dead man may have committed suicide. The main focus, however, is not really on whodunit but on Tony's conduct of the case, and his handling, or rather mishandling, of his relationships with his client and his wife. I'm afraid, though, that I found Tony rather irritating.

The cast includes Charles Laughton as the satyr-like judge, and Leo G. Carroll (whom I  remember rather fondly from The Man From UNCLE) as counsel for the prosecution. It's quite a good film, but for me, there was far too much soap-opera standard emoting, and not enough suspense. Not typical Hitchcock, by any means. I'm glad I've seen it, but give me North by North West, Rear Window or Vertigo any day..

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

It's one of those movies that seems to slip through the viewer's mind without leaving much of an impression. No notable suspense sequences or interesting ideas, it's only remembered now because it was directed by Hitchcock. Even books on his work tend to write stuff like "And in 1947 he directed THE PARADINE CASE. The next year he directed ROPE". It's part of a slightly troubled period, which only ended with STRANGERS ON A TRAIN in 1951.

Bradstreet

Sergio (Tipping My Fedora) said...

I always found this one unusually tedious for a Hitchcock movie (there are a few though ...) and is one of the few that I very rarely go back to. DIAL M FOR MURDER on the other hand I never seem to tire of watching despite it being all stuck in one set!

Martin Edwards said...

Bradstreet, Sergio, thanks. I agree. Witness for the Proseecution it ain't!

Bradley Friedman said...

This one is just more evidence of how Hitchcock struggled in the 1940's with the Hollywood studio system and with his own creative juices. There's no evidence of the fun he had with his British films or the brilliance of things to come.I suppose I should try it again, Martin, but it's one of the few AH films I don't own. Give me the fifties films anytime.

Martin Edwards said...

Me too, Brad!

Clothes In Books said...

If an unknown director had made it, Paradine Case would be a little gem! I like it, but of course it doesn't compare with Hitchcock's other work. He was too good...

Martin Edwards said...

A fair point, Moira. We have certain expectations of Hitchcock, I suppose. I admire the way he tried to vary the diet, though as you say, a good many of his other films were better than this one.

Carol Flatt said...

This film sounds intriguing. I have some questions. Is it still available to purchase, is it in color, and was the Lake District portion actually filmed there? If yes to all, I will try to buy it! I think my favorite Hitchcock film of all time is "Dial M for Murder" and I enjoyed "Strangers on a Train" as well. I saw "The Thirty-nine Steps" film, and on the London stage which was done quite well I thought. I really enjoy the information you impart to us on books and films, along with (and especially) your own writing, Martin. Please keep up the good work!!