The Suspect [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray A - America - Kino Lorber
Review written by and copyright: Robert Segedy (24th February 2021).
The Film

"The Suspect" (1944)

I can hear it now: “But is it really a Noir?” The answer is kind of. Sure, there’s plenty of dark alleys and shadowy scenes, there’s two murders, a semi femme fatale, and there’s Charles Laughton. Also, there is the director: Robert Siodmak, a master of the genre: Phantom Lady (1944). The Spiral Staircase (1945), The Killers (1946), Cry of the City (1948), Criss Cross (1948). Here is a director that practically cut his teeth on the genre, helping define it’s characteristics: the doomed hero, the slinky femme fatale, the bleak shadowy world. My reason for not being one hundred percent is because my answer is ambivalent. At times, The Suspect feels like it has one foot in the noir universe, but it also has the domestic terrors usually found in an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Let’s take a closer look at this admittedly unsung classic.

The setting is 1902, London on a bucolic street. This is the type of place where the neighbors are friendly, the vendors are pleasant, and nothing bad ever happens. However, that is the overall appearance and as Hitchcock and later David Lynch have explored, that the general appearance is a mere disguise for the true horror that lies underneath. We see our protagonist, Phillip (Charles Laughton) walking down the cobblestone street. He stops and makes some conversation with his next-door neighbor, Mrs. Simmons (Molly Lamont) who is working in her garden. Entering into the house he is immediately put upon by his shrew of a wife, Cora (Rosalind Ivan). Cora informs Phillip that their son John (Dean Harens) is moving out. John tells Phillip that Cora’s constant nagging has driven him to distraction and that he is leaving to live elsewhere. It quickly becomes apparent that the couple are trapped in a loveless marriage and Phillip decides to move into John’s vacant room. It should be noted that Cora is an absolute terror, and our sympathies are immediately aligned with Phillip. Director Siodmak easily sets the stage for the tragedy that will surely follow.

At work, Phillip is an accountant for a local tobacco shop, and here he meets Mary Gray (Ella Raines), a young and unemployed stenographer who is seeking employment. Laughton is completely charming and his interactions here and with the young man, Merridew (Raymond Severn) help establish Phillip’s character as being a kind-hearted person. On the way home, Philip sees a distraught Mary crying on a bench and he stops to comfort her. Phillip asks Mary why she is upset, and he is told that she is hungry and upset because she hadn’t found employment. Phillip offers to walk Mary home and they go to dinner and a show. Everything that happens is above board and Phillip is a perfect gentleman. Gradually, the two quickly become friends except that Phillip has concealed that he is married. Phillip has found himself in love with the younger woman, but he has kept their relationship completely platonic. Meanwhile Cora is suspicious and attempts to follow Phillip as he is on his way to meet with Mary, but Phillip dodges his sneaky wife. Upon arriving at home, Cora explodes and unleashes her fury on Phillip, telling him that she knows everything and that she is going to expose him for a liar and sham. Phillip asks for a divorce and Cora refuses. Later that night and it is hardly explicit, Philip might have killed Cora by pushing her down the stairs; Siodmak is extremely clever and he does not blatantly show Cora’s demise, instead we have a scene where Inspector Huxley (Stanley Ridges) of Scotland Yard gives us a thorough explanation of what may have occurred. This sequence of shots of the darkened staircase and accompanying narration by Huxley is the apex of suspense. Huxley is a nagging presence, and he

appears throughout the film acting as a form of consciousness for Phillip. After all murder is certainly wrong and we can’t have the protagonist actually getting away with a serious crime.

Inspector Huxley shows up with a new theory, however before he can accuse Phillip any further, it is revealed that Mary and Phillip have married that very morning, and everyone knows that a wife cannot be made to testify against her husband in a court of law. The couple seem to be quite happy and Mary has the house redecorated. We see Mary packing for a brief weekend trip to Brighton and she displays her new swimsuit to Phillip. Mary and her friends depart for the seaside leaving Phillip home alone for the night. Shortly later a drunken Mr. Simmons (Henry Daniell) barges into Phillip’s house and basically tells him that he is planning on blackmailing Phillip based on a conversation that he has had with the impetuous Inspector Huxley. Simmons is an interesting character; he is a wife beater and a rotter. He demands whiskey and quick-thinking Phillip produces some sleeping pills in order to dismiss this intruder. The poison works quickly, and the bore is easily killed. Suddenly Phillip hears the sound of an approaching cab and he realizes that his wife and their friends have returned from their excursion. Phillip conceals the corpse behind a sofa moments before his wife arrives and this displays Siodmak’ s brilliance as a director as he teases us with a moment of having Phillip’s crime revealed. Sybil (Eve Amber) is a woman that John apparently has his eye on, and she exclaims that something has touched her ankle when sitting on the couch; the suspect is revealed to be a playful kitten. I was delighted with Laughton’s performance as a two-time murderer and couldn’t help but feel compelled to cheer him on as he carefully tries to correct this universe’s wrongs. I couldn’t help but wonder how audiences at the time felt about the film’s devious undertakings.

Phillip reveals to Mary that he has been seriously thinking about leaving for Canada with Joe. Mary is delighted with the news and seems relieved that they can leave behind the house of bitter memories. Next, we see the threesome aboard a departing ship and after Mary and Joe are distracted with locating a missing sweater, Phillip makes his way to the bar. Of course, up pops the devil in the form of that prying Inspector Huxley as he tells Phillip that he was onboard to say farewell to an old friend. Phillip innocently enquires about the investigation into the disappearance of his former neighbor and the Inspector shows Phillip a newspaper article that explains that the body was discovered in the canal that adjoined below their yards. “Do you have a suspect” asks Phillip. The Inspector replies “Of course, it was Simmons wife.” We can see that this news upsets Phillip and his line of enquiry attempts to persuade the Inspector differently. The haughty Inspector is having none of it and proclaims that Mrs. Simmons will be persecuted and sentenced to death. The Inspector departs the boat leaving behind a distraught Phillip. The next scene shows the Inspector explaining to a fellow detective what he did and why. We are shown a departing Phillip as he walks down the gangplank away from the departing ship and it is obviously clear that the Inspector’s strategy worked. The last scene of the film is a medium long shot of Philip strolling down a darkened street, whistling to himself, destination unknown. This is a perfect ending to the film because we know that it is a matter of time before Phillip’s conscious gets the better of him and he confesses. Roll the credits!

Video

The image is cited as being from a “Brand New 2K Master.” The images are very crisp and clean with the HD presentation displaying rich blacks.

Audio

Kino uses a DTS-HD Master dual-mono track in the original English language. English subtitles are helpful but hardly necessary. The score by Frank Skinner is extremely good and is used to add to the overall suspense.

Extras

Audio Commentary featuring Troy Howarth
The author and film historian seems to know everything there is to know about this production and he is a wealth of information when it comes to identifying some of the uncredited cast members. His commentary track is lively and appreciative of the final product. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him.

Trailers: (Surprisingly no trailer for The Suspect).

The Paradine Case:(1:43)

Witness for the Prosecution: (3:07)

The Spiral Staircase: (1:58)

Cry of the City: (2:33)

So Evil, My Love: (1:59

Packaging

Comes packaged in a Blu-ray clam shell case.

Overall

This is a wonderful suspense film capturing Laughton at the height of his career with a masterful director telling an absorbing story. This is a carefully crafted Film Noir and the attention to details is striking.

The Film: A Video: A Audio: A Extras: A Overall: A

 


DVD Compare is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program and the Amazon Europe S.a.r.l. Associates Programme, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.co.uk, amazon.com, amazon.ca, amazon.fr, amazon.de, amazon.it, amazon.es and amazon.se.