Sunday, March 1, 2015

Noir Watch (sorta): High Wall (1947)

So, like a month ago I started watching this movie on a DVD I'd picked up, and got an hour into it and the DVD fritzed out on me.  So I got a replacement copy from Amazon (seriously, their return policy is the bees knees), and finally got around to finishing the movie this evening.

I am not sure I'd recommend High Wall.  By far the best feature of the movie is that it stars Audrey Totter as a psychiatrist who is not afraid to monkey around with experimental brain surgery and the liberal application of medication.  It's only marginally noir, in my book.  More of a suspense thriller with noirish undertones.

Basically, the movie is about a guy who probably really is, at the very least, unstable following his return from WWII, who comes home to a wife he married in the fog of war, only to find out that she wants someone pulling in more bucks than he's worth now that he's not drawing a military salary.  He leaves for Burma to fly cargo and send home paychecks.  When he comes home, he may or may not have killed his wife, who he figures is schtupping her boss - a kind of sleazy dude who happens to be overseeing a Christian Book publisher.

It's all very sordid.

At the mental hospital, the guy, played by Robert Taylor, eventually undergoes surgery at the recommendation of the lovely Audrey Totter (and who could say no to Audrey Totter?  Even when she's asking to cut into your skull?) which, does, in fact seem to fix what ails him.  Also, meds.

But now he has to clear his name, which he does by doing all sorts of things that seem like they'd all go toward making a case for throwing him into a deep dark hole and forgetting about him.

The movie isn't overly terrible, it's just got a lot of issues, and the discussion of medicine is very much of its time, with psychiatry portrayed as a surprisingly exact science where you fix everything with the right pill or a quick procedure - at least for our hero.  Everyone else in that asylum is bonkers and incurable.

this never happens in the movie

For reasons no one can explain, Audrey Totter falls hard for Robert Taylor, and she assists him in clearing his name, right up to throwing the hippocratic oath out the window here and there.  This is the most baffling part of the movie other than that - well, it's a pretty conventional movie of its time, and single dames have to get paired off or killed by the time the thing wraps.

But, to the movie's credit, Totter does play a doctor, and at no time does anyone say "well, we can't take your lady-doctor opinions seriously", so, you know, the movie has that going for it.  Even if she does fall in love with a guy who has no problem roughing her up a little as he escapes solitary confinement to go hunt a man.

I'm just saying, the movie is complex.

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