Monday 7 October 2019

In a Lonely Place - DVD review

The film of In a Lonely Place (1950), directed by Nicholas Ray, is rather better known than Dorothy B. Hughes' novel (1947) from which it was adapted. Both are quite excellent, but very different. I read the book first, and now I've caught up with the DVD of the movie, which stars Humphrey Bogart and Gloria Grahame. Bogart plays Dix Steele, a Hollywood screenwriter whose career is in decline.

In the novel, Dix is a war veteran who hankers after becoming a writer, but doesn't achieve his dream. He becomes obsessed with picking up women and murdering them, and the book charts his mental decline. In the film, a young woman in whom Dix has shown an interest is murdered, but it's not clear until the end whether or not he is guilty of the crime.

Even though I knew in advance that the film script bears only a limited resemblance to the source material, I was still surprised that Andrew P. Solt, the writer, jettisoned so much of Hughes' book. Given the excellence of the novel, this was a high-risk gamble, but in fairness to Solt, he does create a mood of menace, and the actors do a superb job. I'm slightly surprised that nobody has attempted to re-make the film in a manner more faithful to the book; perhaps the success of Ray's version remains a deterrent.

In the bonus extras, the comment is made that in the movie, Dix is a man whom women watch, whereas in the book, he's a man who watches women. This distinction between the approach of the male and female writers struck me when I was watching; there's something very modern about Hughes' writing, and the same can't quite be said about Solt's script, despite its considerable merits. But I enjoyed watching the film almost as much as I enjoyed reading the novel. Not least because of the soundtrack by George Antheil, known to locked room mystery fans as Stacey Bishop, author of Death in the Dark.

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