on December 29, 2000
About 30 years ago, my parents , who sadly are both gone now, recommended Otto Preminger's "Laura" to me. At that time, I had only seen the notoriously bad made-for-TV version starring Lee Radziwill(!) and George Sanders. When I saw the 1944 version, I was hooked. "Laura" is one of those perfect films that draws you in every time. Now when I mean "perfect", that doesn't necessarily mean believable. "Laura" is an elegant, film noir fairy tale. I'm not really sure that Laura would end up with a rough-edged detective, but who cares? That's the magic of movies! The fact that you believe it while you're watching it is what counts. If you DON'T believe it WHILE you're watching it, that's when the trouble starts! But back to "Laura". The film is elegantly photographed, with sets that I wish I could live in. Then take a top-notch cast that features a drop-dead beautiful Gene Tierney, the acidic Clifton Webb (in an incredible screen debut), the tough/sexy Dana Andrews, and the elegant and deadly duo of Vincent Price and Judith Anderson, give them a sharp-as-a-poisoned stiletto script, and watch what happens! "Laura" is a tight, smart murder/mystery with some VERY dark undertones-the effects of beauty and desire on a frustrated and twisted psyche, the destructive and venal thoughts hidden behind a veneer of sophistication and wit, and a man's growing obsession with a (presumably) dead woman are just some of the dark forces at work here. The cherry on the sundae of this toxic dessert is David Raksin's score which, of course, introduced the world to the bittersweet theme song for "Laura." I was never a fan of the Johnny Mercer lyrics for this song-it was, to me, like tacking an instruction booklet onto the Mona Lisa. Some things are better left unspoken! I don't know how many times I've seen "Laura". I've lost count. My dear friend Susan and I could act it out in front of an audience like "The Rocky Horror Picture Show," we've seen it that often. If you've seen "Laura", see it again. If you haven't, rent it, or better still, buy it. It gets better the 50th viewing around.
The theme from "Laura" is one of the most haunting ever written, by David Raksin, relatively unknown, but forever memorialized through this melody. Gene Tierney is at her peak of beauty, and she really is breathtaking in the most literal sense of the word. When I grew up this was always one of my favorite movies, and then when I re-discovered this movie as an adult, I was always mesmerized by her and by the entire cast, the score and the story, all prime examples of how great film noir can be when it's done with this amount of style and class.
***I was not aware until recently of her tragic encounter with a female Marine at a Hollywood Canteen, during WW2. Apparently this Marine was hospitalized for German Measles, and she sneaked out of the hospital to meet her favorite movie star. She had her picture taken with GT, who was pregnant at the time, and also KISSED her, which resulted in her baby daughter being born with severe mental retardation. When Daria (the daughter) was four years old she was insititutionalized. GT met the woman one year later and found out how she had contracted German Measles, but did not mention the tragic consequences of the woman's actions for reasons unknown.***
What sets this particular movie apart from the rest of the genre, is it's cast and it's tasteful telling of the story, which includes the creme de la creme of New York society, played to the hilt by the cast. One of my chief joys in watching this movie, is the scene of Clifton Webb (as the acerbic critic, Waldo Lydecker) sitting in his enormous black bathtub(!) typing furiously, and relishing the power he has by virtue of his position as a critic. He takes savage pleasure in denigrating anyone who displeases him, either by their lack of talent or because of his own personal dislike.
There is not one moment of slack; all is interesting, relevant and suspenseful; you will NOT be able to figure it out until the end. On DVD, especially, this movie guarantees suspense and a fascinating glimpse into what the "Golden Age of Hollywood" was capable of...Excellent performances also by Vincent Price as the ne'er do well playboy, man about town, and Judith Anderson, a far cry from her portrayal of the redoubtable Mrs. Danvers in "Rebecca." If you have never seen this, get it; you will not be sorry, and if you have seen it, you should get it for the quality of the DVD...
A film noir classic comes to DVD for the first time packed full of more extras than expected, "Laura" tells the story of a society beauty (Gene Tierney in a career defining performance) murdered for no apparent reason. Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews in a hardboiled strong performance) investigates her murder questioning the men in her life beginning with a witty critic Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb in a deliciously droll performance and in a major come back) and playboy Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price). Seen in flashback, we discover Laura's background and how she rises from the middle class to world class society beauty with the assistance of those men in her life. Things take a surprising twist when McPherson meets the very woman who was murdered as the audience must figure out what's really going on. A marvelous suspense thriller with elements of film noir, "Laura" continues to be haunting sixty years on.
A nicely detailed transfer with rich blacks and a nicely detailed picture, Fox has done a very good of job transferring this classic to DVD. The DVD has some minor analog blemishes in the form of dirt and there's noticeable grain due to the stock of the film used to shoot the movie and how far removed the film is from the original nitrate negative (like most films from the era, the negative probably doesn't exist any longer although there's no information on the restoration here). The mono sound has nice presence with slight problems with hiss and other analog imperfections but, on the whole, it sounds superior to the previous releases on VHS and laserdisc.
We get the A&E Biography programs on Price featuring interviews with Price biographer Lucy Price Williams, Price's daughter, friends and film co-workers. Price initially joined Orson Welles' Mercury Theater in New York. The droll comments by actor/writer Norman Lloyd about their experience together in the Mercury Theater alone makes this biography worth watching. Price had an easy going and natural style that still seems contemporary and when seeing his performance with other more affected performers of the time. His debut in a 1933 Constance Bennet comedy more demonstrated his flair and versatility. Over the course of seven years Price played everything from Brigham Young to the King of France. One of the cinema's most underrated performers, Price's performances particularly here continue to sparkle with wit and power.
Gene Tierney's A&E Biography is a marvelous biography every bit the equal of the Price biography. Tierney began smoking to lower the pitch of her voice (at the advice of a studio executive) because she didn't like her voice thinking that she sounded like Minnie Mouse in her first film (she died of emphysema as a result of her life long addiction). Tierney's life had its tragic turns comparable to that of other beautiful stars of the day. She tumbled into depression after a failed marriage to costume designer Oleg Cassini and the birth of her mentally handicapped daughter resulting in her absence from the screen for nearly seven years. Tierney discovered that all the money she earned as an actress during the 40's was squandered by her father to support his failing business without her consent.
We also get a deleted scene (a rarity for films from this time) consisting of a montage sequence detailing how Lydecker taught her about the finer things in life. It was feared that the "decadence" on display would offend troops fighting overseas. We also get a theatrical trailer which demonstrates how bad this fine film might have looked like without the fine restoration seen here. This alternate opening deleted after the first screening has been integrated back into the movie so you may watch either the original version or the edited version that's been seen by millions over the years.
Historian Rudy Behlmer's commentary track tends to be the drier of the two tracks. He provides extensive background on the performers, the novel, director Otto Preminger. His comments on how Preminger had to fight for actor Clifton Webb to play Lydecker because of his well known homosexuality are particularly enlightening. Behlmer reads excerpts from Preminger's autobiography giving us insights from the director and writers of the project. Initially the writers wanted "Laura" to be a Broadway play before a film. Derailed; by politics and other issues, the script became a film instead despite lukewarm interest from MGM. MGM wanted to do the film as a "B" movie mystery while Fox had higher aspirations for the project. Preminger convinced the studio to buy the book. Initially working only as a producer on the project (his film failures had damaged his aspirations as a film director), Preminger took over direction from Rueben Mamoulian ("Dr. Jekell and Mr. Hyde") early on during the shooting of the film replacing the director after he butted heads with Preminger.
Film composer David Raskin's commentary track is absolutely charming, involving and although his memories of the film have been colored by time, it's also a lot more inviting. Raskin's haunting, wistful romantic score acts as a perfect counterpoint to the action and, at other times, underlining the emotional core of the moment.
A classic finally comes to DVD with plenty of bells and whistles. With an extremely good transfer, great commentary tracks featuring original film composer David Raskin and two excellent A&E Biography episodes on stars Gene Tierney and Vincent Price, "Laura" was worth the wait. The inclusion of a deleted scene and a version of the movie with and without the scene will delight long time fans of this terrific movie.
"Laura' from 1944 is classic film noir. Featuring standout performances by all concerned and expert direction from Otto Preminger, 'Laura' stands apart from the crowd as an original and superior film, compared to many others in the "Noir" category. The beauty of a young Gene Tierney and the premier film performance by the great Clifton Webb alone are enough to put this film over the top! Coupled with an extremely catchy tune that became a hit in it's own right after the films' release, you have every element needed to proclaim 'Laura' a true classic. It's a great move and not to be missed by film fans!
With that said, this review will focus mainly on the video and audio quality of the presentation, rather than the film itself. ( I will leave arguments regarding the cover art to others although it just doesn't look much like her to me!)
So how is the video? 'Laura' on Blu Ray is an ENOURMOUS improvement over all previous home video releases. It leaves any and all DVD versions swinging in the wind. Print damage is almost completely nonexistent, image stability is rock solid (unlike the DVD that had quite a bit of warping or telecine wobble) and detail is greatly increased.
Now for the less than good news: It is my opinion that 'Laura' has been overly scrubbed with DNR. Compared to other B&W titles I own from similar years on Blu, the facial details seem to have that telltale waxy look that overuse of DNR can cause. You may or may not agree with me, depending on the amount of your collection and the sharpness of your eye, but I was let down by this. Also, the contrast , while pitch perfect in much of the film, is running too hot and blown out about 1/4 of the time. While shadow detail in the darker scenes is spot on and really a revelation, other scenes almost white out faces and seem overly bright. I checked this film against my 4K scan of 'Casablanca' and even the MPI Blu Ray copy of 'Women in Green' just to make sure my HDTV wasn't in need of a slight tweak in the picture control settings, but alas those two were fine and 'Laura' indeed runs a bit too hot in the contrast department, at least SOME of the time.
Is it enough to ruin the presentation? No, not really, but resist the urge to lower your brightness/contrast controls while watching or the darker scenes will lose their shadow detail. (I use an Oppo BDP-95 Blu Ray player w/ LG LM9600 display tweaked using CalMAN 5 Basic software)
Overall, this is the very best I have EVER seen this film look, but it could have been much better if the DNR was used much less and the natural film grain was allowed to remain. Also, the end result of the hot contrast levels give this rendering a slightly digital look and I admit to finding it distracting from time to time. You can be the judge for yourself after a few viewings.
Basically, if you love this film and want the best picture commercially available for it, then this Blu Ray is the only game in town and it is pretty striking overall. A solid 4 out of 5 stars for the video.
Ok, video is very good, how about the sound?
The audio is of course MONO and is presented in uncompressed DTS HD Master Audio. It sounds fine. This film is from 1944 folks so don't be expecting miracles. There are no annoying pops, clicks or glitches that I could detect initially but I am sure if you listen hard enough and with headphones you may find a few. I was perfectly satisfied with the audio.
The included extras do not skimp in the least. All the special features that were included with the 2005 DVD still remain, plus you get a deleted additional scene that can be played alone or used with seamless branching to add it into the film. Also, a new mini documentary , "The Obsession" has been added along with the previous multiple commentaries and the two A&E biographies of Vincent Price and Gene Tierney.
The Blu Ray release of 'Laura'; give you a LOT for your money. The film itself, which is a true classic in every sense of the word, the major bump in picture quality, good solid uncompressed MONO audio and a plethora of special features all combine to give you a real bang for your buck here! I plan to find a suitable replacement piece of cover art to insert in the case, but otherwise am very happy with this Blu Ray and heartily recommend it to all fans of the film and classic Noir cinema as well! Ohhhh, that famous overbite in 1080p is something to see! WOWEEE !!
on June 14, 2001
I saw this movie at least ten times. First time was in my early teens, when it was shown on local TV. I never heard of Gene Tierney before, but after seeing this film, I knew I would never forget her. She was the most beautiful actress I ever saw and her mannerisms reveal a classy keen intelligence. Everything about this movie will haunt you--Tierney's beauty, the musical score by David Raksin, the portrait, and the ending.
The film is about a woman who seemed to have everything--a successful career, beauty, brains, wealth--who is discovered murdered in her apartment. A detective, Mark McPherson, played by Dana Andrews investigates the case and starts questioning possible suspects. One is the Svengali-like Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a syndicated columnist and radio personality. Another is Shelby Carpenter, a smooth Southern gigolo played by Vincent Price (yes Vincent Price!). And there's Laura's middle-aged socialite aunt, Ann Treadwell, who was using Carpenter as her boy-toy until Carpenter meets Laura. Other possible suspect is Laura's maid, a feisty loyal Irishwoman.
The film shows narrated flashbacks by Lydecker. He idolizes her and intercepts Laura's suitors, all of whom he considers beneath her. He couldn't intercept Carpenter who attracts Laura, and who Laura was supposed to marry the week she was found murdered. The first twist of the film is when McPherson falls in love with Laura, who's presumed dead. From reading her diary and letters and continuously seeing her portrait, he discovers she's the woman of his dreams, an unattainable goddess whose physical presence he can only imagine. So when twist number two happens, the murder investigation understandably becomes secondary to this gumshoe detective.
This is the best film directed by Otto Preminger. I believe it's the first American film he directed, and his following films pale by comparison. Ironically, this is a film full of second choices. The lead was written with Jennifer Jones in mind, but she turned it down. It was then offered to Heddy Lamarr who also turned it down. Tierney claimed in her autobiography that she didn't want the role either and thought the film was going to bomb, due to the fact that many aspects of it were not prepared (the final script, the music) and that Dana Andrews (also a second choice) prior to this film never had a role as a leading man. The portrait that was originally intended for the film was painted by the wife of director Rouben Mamoulian, who was initially hired for the film but was fired by Preminger who was producing it. Paintings don't transcribe well to film so a touched-up photograph of Tierney was used as the portrait. Preminger took the directing himself. He wanted to use the song "Sophisticated Lady" by Duke Ellington as the musical score, but David Raksin made a deal with him, in which he would write a score Preminger would approve of in one weekend. Raksin claimed he kept looking at a photo of Tierney during the composition of the score and that she was his inspiration. Thus second choices made this movie a classic.
The dialogue is witty and biting, particularly that of Lydecker. The film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Webb), Best Black and White Cinematography and Best Musical Score. It only won for Best Cinematography, and I'd like to learn what films aced it in the other categories. Although awards are not considered important by many film connoisserus, the winners are the ones recognized by the next generation. Thus "Laura" remains one of the most underrated films of all time.
Released in 1944 to great popular and critical success, "Laura" was nominated for 4 Academy Awards, won for Best Cinematography, and solidified Gene Tierney's status as one of Hollywood's great stars of the 1940s. Based on the novel by Vera Caspary, "Laura" is a murder mystery revolving around the love of several men for its title character, the beautiful, enigmatic Laura. The film is often, though debatably, considered film noir due to its cynical characterizations and narrative structure, although it is not especially pessimistic and lacks the distinctive visual style of many classic film noirs.
We are introduced to the mystery by Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), a wealthy middle-aged columnist known for his acerbic wit. Laura was his protégé and, in his view, his creation to whom he was devoted and from whom he expected the same. Waldo has just learned of Laura's murder, and police Detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) has come to interview him. Det. McPherson and Lydecker then visit Laura's Aunt, Mrs. Anne Treadwell (Judith Anderson), who happens to be very close to Laura's dandyish fiancé, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price). All of these people had motive to murder Laura, and all seem very capable of it. McPherson appears stoic and disinterested in anything but business, often to the consternation of his suspects. But as he reads Laura's private diary and correspondence and stares at the portrait in her apartment, McPherson becomes enchanted with her memory, perhaps in love with it. And then his investigation takes an unexpected twist.
Much of the credit for elevating "Laura" from a clever murder mystery to a great and memorable film goes to the sharp, evocative dialogue. The three murder suspects -Lydecker, Shelby, and Ann- are shamelessly selfish, but remarkably conscious of their own characters. Lydecker says, "I'm not kind; I'm vicious. It's the secret of my charm" and declares, "In my case, self-absorption is completely justified." Shelby describes himself: "I don't know a lot about anything, but I know a little about practically everything." "I can afford a blemish on my character, but not on my clothes." Lines like those could sound campy, but these great actors deliver them flawlessly. They entertain the audience with clever banter while providing complex motivations behind each man's relationship with Laura. Dana Andrews impresses as a man who seems incapable of loving a real person, but who is infatuated with a ghost. Like the others, he evokes a intriguing mixture of sympathy and revulsion. In an interesting role reversal, Laura has concentrated her energies on her career, while her suitors are preoccupied with their lifestyles. Between Gene Tierney's star power, Otto Preminger's direction, Samuel Hoffenstein's script, fabulous supporting performances, and David Raskin's score -which produced a hit song, "Laura" is as captivating today as it was in 1944.
The DVD (20th Century Fox 2005 release): This is a quality print of the film, and the disc is loaded with features: 2 biographical documentaries, 2 audio commentaries, 1 deleted scene, a theatrical trailer, and the option to watch the film with a deleted sequence of Laura's transformation into a stylish society woman in tact. The 2 documentaries are "A&E Biographies". "Gene Tierney: A Shattered Portrait" (45 minutes) includes interviews with Tierney's ex-husband Oleg Cassini, sister Pat Byrne, and daughter Christina Cassini, among others. It follows Tierney's life from her birth in Brooklyn in 1920, to her success as one of the most popular actresses of the 1940s, through her marriage to designer Oleg Cassini and her struggles with mental illness in the 1950s, her retirement from acting and remarriage in the 1960s, until the end of her life in 1991 at the age of 70. "Vincent Price: The Versatile Villain" (45 minutes) discusses Price's nearly 60-year acting career, which included 100 films and nearly 2000 television appearances, and his avocation as a collector and promoter of fine arts. It traces his life from his birth in St. Louis in 1911, through his varied Hollywood career before turning to horror films, his final films and plays in the 1980s, to his death in 1993 at the age of 82. Includes interviews with Price's biographer Lucy Chase Williams, daughter Victoria Price, actress Jane Russell, among others.
The two audio commentaries are both good. The first is by film professor Jeanine Basinger and composer David Raskin, who composed "Laura"'s score. These were apparently recorded separately, but on the same track. Basinger provides scene-by-scene analysis and commentary on the actors, characters, dialogue, directing decisions, and technique. Raskin comments on the score, but unfortunately we rarely hear the music on the commentary track. The second commentary is by film historian and author Rudy Behlmer. He discusses the evolution of Vera Caspary's novel, would-be play, and this film in detail, based on information from drafts of the script, interviews he conducted with the principle creative persons, personal correspondence, and studio memos. He starts with Vera Caspari's idea for a story in 1939 and goes from there, eventually discussing the details of the film project. This commentary doesn't correspond to the scene we are looking at, but it is packed with interesting and probably hard-won information. Subtitles are available for the film in English and Spanish. Dubbing is available in French.
on April 30, 2006
I have to admit, I had never heard of "Laura" until finding it on the shelf at Virgin Megastore on sale for a mere $10. Being one of those blindbuyers who'll pick up a movie if the back of the box sounds interesting, I picked it up. After all, it was a film noir, and I had just started getting into the genre. When I got home, I put the movie on my shelf and promptly forgot about it for a month. After which, I picked it up, remembered why I bought it, and finally gave the disc a spin.
I was floored.
As a film noir, the movie is definitely a classic. It's on the short side, clocking in at less than 90 minutes, but the movie packs such a punch that making it longer would only slow it down. All the basic elements of film noir are utilized here, and are done in such a way that it makes the film relatable for any viewer. Film noir, IMO, is an acquired taste, and some people may be turned off from its stylistic lighting and gritty moods. "Laura" may not be the *best* film noir (that honor goes to Double Indemnity), but it's definitely the best one to start on if you're new to the genre.
Gene Tierney, with those EYES, is a gem and there's no questioning why Dana Andrews fell in love with her (in the movie, of course). She's got such a subdued style of acting in here, and you almost wish the film was longer, if only to have more of Gene. Her best role was her Oscar-nominated turn as Ellen Harland in Leave Her to Heaven (she lost to Joan Crawford as Mildred Pierce). But of course, she'll be best remembered as Laura Hunt.
The DVD is wonderful, though there are a few minor gripes, which I'll get to in the end.
First, the video is perhaps better than it's ever been. It's such a crisp and clear transfer, you'd hardly believe it came from 1944.
The audio, available in English Stereo, English Mono, and Spanish Mono. There's also English closed-captions, and English and Spanish subtitles. I'm not a big audio geek, so I can't tell if the audio's supposed to be good or bad, but it's pretty good here. The score comes out very powerfully, as does the dialogue.
There are two commentaries. The first, by Rudy Behlmer, is chock-ful of information on the production of the film. But, like he warns, don't listen to it unless you've already seen the movie. He talks about plot points that would spoil the story for first time viewers.
The second commentary is by Jeanine Basinger and the late David Raksin. I found it harder to get into, but still is wonderful in relaying anecdotes and behind the scenes production tidbits.
A slightly-softer-in-video-quality deleted scene is available on its own (with or without Behlmer commentary, which starts rather abruptly) or can be integrated into the film as the "Extended Version". Stick with the regular theatrical version, as the deleted scene was cut for a reason. Just a note, though, that if you watch the "Extended Version", you can switch the audio tracks on the fly and access the commentaries, despite being told on the disc that they're only available on the theatrical version.
The theatrical trailer is as always a wonderful piece of marketing, and also shows just how bad the shape of the film was in before its restoration. Oddly, despite other Fox Film Noir titles containing a trailer gallery of other movies in the line, Laura doesn't have the gallery.
Two episodes of A&E's Biography are given, one for Gene Tierney and one for Vincent Price. Both are around the 44-minute mark, and are prety good bios, with film clips, interviews, and rare photos. The Gene Tierney episode is worth more than one viewing, though I found the Vincent Price one to be rather...slow.
Now, what would have made this single-disc release better? Just a few recommendations from me as to what they could have put on this disc:
-An audio track with the isolated music score. Just a tidbit from the DVD, but the theme for Laura almost would have been Louis Armstrong's "Sophisticated Lady"!
-A making-of featurette, it doesn't have to be long, just around the 20 or 30 minute mark.
-Movietone footage. It's common on the Studio Classics release and some of the Film Noir titles.
-Stills Gallery. Would have loved to seen more poster art beyond the DVD cover, along with production stills, and the ORIGINAL portrait of Laura (the one in the film is the second version, of an actual picture of Gene Tierney made to look like a painting)
-Restoration Comparison. Like Movietone footage, this is common on Studio Classics, and seeing the shape the trailer was in, would have been interesting to see how well Fox did restoring this classic.
All in all, the film and disc are A+ efforts and HIGHLY recommended.
on February 11, 2013
"Laura" on blu-ray is a huge disappointment for me. While this blu-ray transfer does, indeed, offer better image detail than the previous DVD and VHS releases, it lacks the image depth and brilliance one expects from 35mm film. Low contrast in certain scenes makes them badly "washed out" and uncomfortable to view. The image is so bad in one exterior daylight scene outside of Laura's apartment building that one might think it was photographed by an amateur cameraman. Otto Preminger (the director of "Laura," for those who don't know) would go ballistic if he were alive to see this. Having met him, I'm convinced he would! I note that Fox has substituted its original logo at the beginning of the picture with a more modern version. That fact gives me a clue as to what happened, and also leads me to believe that this blu-ray is the best "Laura" will ever look because Fox could not come up with any better elements. Here's why. Back in the 1950s, Fox sold a package of features to a company called National Telefilm Associates, which distributed the Fox pictures to t-v stations. "Laura" was one of the films in the NTA package. On each feature, NTA replaced the original Fox opening logo with its own version. The replacement was cut it into the negative or fine grain positive used by NTA to create its 16mm reduction negative and prints for the t-v stations. Their opening had the 20th Century-Fox animation dissolve into an NTA title card about midway through the Fox fanfare. The NTA card either faded out or dissolved into the main title of the feature. I believe Fox was forced to cut in the new logo at the beginning of "Laura" in order to get rid of the NTA credit because all that remains of "Laura" is the NTA material. Back in the 50's, film prints for t-v were made low contrast because of the nature of the telecine cameras. So, as disappointing as is this version of "Laura," it's probably as good as we'll ever see, the only chance for something better being a frame by frame digital resortation or Fox finding pre-NTA materials.
on April 10, 2005
The opening credits of Laura are superimposed over a painting of Laura, which displays her alluring beauty--beauty many men desire, but never conquer. It also offers a more ominous thought of jealousy, as many could do something very stupid during a moment of intense jealousy. This is followed by a statement by infamous writer Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb), "I should never forget the weekend Laura died...and I, Waldo Lydecker, was the only one who really knew her and I had just begun to write her story when..." This statement is accompanied a low lonely flute and string music that augments the foreboding atmosphere in the film, and it carries a promise of further threats and suspense.
Death has come to a young successful woman who has climbed the social ladder of success in a rapid manner. This young woman was Laura Hunt (Gene Tierney) who someone shot in the face with a shotgun. The murder brings the audience into a dark and sinister atmosphere, much in the spirit of true film noir, as all the main characters are also suspects to the grisly murder of this once stunning woman. Even the police cannot evade the audience's suspicions as the investigation unfolds. However, only one thing is certain, someone pulled the trigger of the shotgun that departed the late Laura Hunt from this world.
Briefly after Mr. Lydecker's initial statement to the audience the investigation begins and he is interviewed again by the police, as Mr. Lydecker volunteers to follow Detective Lieutenant Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews). The film quickly moves to introduce the audience to other suspects, Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price) and Mrs. Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson). Mr. Carpenter was suppose to marry Laura the following week while Mrs. Treadwell used be Mr. Carpenter's personal benefactor and much likely more, which is revealed through the information that is provided. Despite the introduction of these suspects the audience cannot eliminate the possibility of someone else being the murderer.
In the true spirit of film noir Laura continues to haunt the audience, as the murder turns into a study of the upper-class. These characters display the bad side of humanity, where greed, jealousy, vanity and more begin to create strong undercurrents that pull the story in different directions. This diverging effect keeps the audience focused on the story, as it helps generate more suspense through the viewer's oblivious notion of who the murderer could be. All characters have skeletons in their closet, which furthers the confusion of the identity of the killer. To top the whole thing off the director Otto Preminger throws an unexpected curveball that will make the audience more intrigued by the story.
Laura brings the audience an excellent film noir, which keeps the audience guessing until the identity of the killer is obvious. A great deal of the film's success could be added to the cast's wonderful performance that enhances the apprehensive atmosphere, but it also rests within the mise-en-scene, music, and direction of the film. The atmosphere is crucial for the film, and Preminger generates this cinematic milieu from the beginning, and it does not let go until the audience has left the darkness of cinematic experience, which leaves the audience with some thoughts to ponder.
on August 14, 2000
Laura is possibly the most entertaining and engrossing crime drama ever to come out of Hollywood. Gene Tierney established herself as a first-rate actress with this film, and will forever be remembered as the enigmatic beauty who inspired David Raksin's romantic musical score. As detective Mark McPherson, Dana Andrews gives one of the great (and one of the most underrated) performances of his long film career. It's hard to imagine another actor coming close to his subtle characterization. The supporting cast is equally superb, with Cliffton Webb, Vincent Price, and Judith Anderson all turning in brilliant performances. Laura has some of the best dialogue in American film, rivaling the best of Joseph L. Mankiewicz, including All About Eve, already pointed out by another reviewer. Among the most memorable lines from this film, "I hope you'll never regret what promises to be a disgustingly earthy relationship," uttered with complete guile by Waldo Lydecker (Webb). And my favorite movie line of all time: "For a charming intelligent girl you've certainly surrounded yourself with a remarkable collection of dopes," delivered in a perfect deadpan manner by Andrews to Tierney toward the end of the film. The set direction and wardrobe are chic and stylish, similar in look to some of the best Alfred Hitchcock films. Laura is as original and contemporary today as it was when first released in 1944. An absolute gem; you will not be disappointed.