Friday 16 March 2018

The Reckless Moment - 1949 film review

Eight years ago (blimey!) I reviewed on this blog The Deep End, a film starring Tilda Swinton and based on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding's novel The Blank Wall. I was underwhelmed by that version of the story, I'm afraid, but when the chance came along to watch an earlier movie adaptation of the book, I decided to take a look. And I'm glad I did.

The Reckless Moment, released in 1949 is a domestic film noir of real merit. Joan Bennett, in her day quite a star, plays Lucia, a wife and mother who is preoccupied by family responsibilities at a time when her beloved husband is working abroad. She's a bossy mum, really, constantly chiding her son about his clothes, and taking it upon herself to tell an unpleasant unsuitable man who is seeing her 17 year old daughter that he must stop. She is even willing to offer him money to make himself scarce. It's not my idea of great parenting, and it doesn't work well. The chap, who is admittedly loathsome, turns up at the family home, where he and Lucia's daughter quarrel. She strikes him and then runs for it, and in a freak accident he winds up dead.

Lucia discovers his body, and in another desperately unwise move, decides to conceal the death. Needless to say, things soon start to unravel. The body is found, and the police start a murder hunt. Meanwhile, an unsavoury duo who have got hold of the girl's letters to the deceased set about blackmailing Lucia.

This is where the film becomes interesting, and it's all due to the relationship between James Mason, one of the bad guys, and Lucia. He finds himself falling in love with her, while she desperately tries to raise the money to buy him and his partner off. Although Mason's character behaves with improbable decency, he is such a charismatic actor that it's not too hard to suspend disbelief, while Lucia's valiant determination to keep her family safe makes up for her intermittent recklessness. A well-made film, and one I enjoyed rather more than The Deep End.


AparecidaProtectUs said...

I barely remember the Swinton film, though my memory of it was that the plot was convoluted and not that interesting. I'm going to investigate finding a copy of The Reckless Moment somehow (perhaps Netflix, but they have reduced their film choices quite a bit).

I'm enjoying reading your blog posts on older films. It made me think of Gene Tierney in Laura and her other great role as a villainess, Leave Her To Heaven. What an actress. I found an interview of her on the old Mike Douglas variety show where she talks on several subjects, and she is so warm, so down to earth, no ego. Those were the days - women might not have felt they had autonomy but the writing and the roles!

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Tonya. It's ages since I watched Laura (also a superb novel) and I was frustrated that I missed it on TV last week. I like Gene Tierney too.

Xavier said...

I saw this one in a now defunct Quartier Latin cinema and was so enthusiastic that I bought the DVD as soon as it was available. It's a very underrated movie with standout performances by Joan Bennett (I admit to a crush on her, even though she's not particularly glamour in this role) and James Mason and stylish direction by legendary (in France) director Max Ophuls. I still wonder how the Hays Office let the flagrantly amoral ending pass but then censors will let you say and do anything as long as you don't say it loud or use dirty words. Did you see Ophuls's other two American movies, the non-crime "Letter from an Unknown Woman" and the noirish "Caught"? If not, you're in for a treat.

Martin Edwards said...

That's interesting, Xavier. I don't know those films at all, but I'll look out for them now!