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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I dislike inspiring so much terror in such a lovely woman."
Believe it or not, Whirlpool (1949) is my very first Otto Preminger film, probably because I spend a great deal of time rummaging around in the cinematic `bargain bin', meaning many of the movies I watch (almost exclusively on DVD) tend not to be of the highest caliber...that's not to say I don't enjoy wonderful films like this, but I may not review them as often as I...
Published on October 3, 2005 by cookieman108

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ferrer as Satanic Svengali
Jose Ferrer proved he had a strong acting presence and reached his peak in his virtuoso role in "Cyrano de Bergerac." In "Whirlpool" he is cast in a role that stretches his talents.

Ferrer can display a modicum of style mixed with a strong measure of authority when he is so disposed. Ultimately he emerges as a satanic Svengali hell bent on destroying...
Published on February 8, 2007 by William Hare


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71 of 80 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "I dislike inspiring so much terror in such a lovely woman.", October 3, 2005
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This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
Believe it or not, Whirlpool (1949) is my very first Otto Preminger film, probably because I spend a great deal of time rummaging around in the cinematic `bargain bin', meaning many of the movies I watch (almost exclusively on DVD) tend not to be of the highest caliber...that's not to say I don't enjoy wonderful films like this, but I may not review them as often as I should...anyway, based on a novel by Guy Endore titled "Methinks The Lady", and directed by Otto Preminger (Laura, The Man with the Golden Arm, Porgy and Bess), the film stars the very lovely Gene Tierney (Laura, Leave Her to Heaven, The Razor's Edge), Richard Conte (Call Northside 777, The Blue Gardenia, Ocean's Eleven), and José Ferrer (Cyrano de Bergerac, Moulin Rouge), whom I'm thankful to see in a decent, if not excellent role, given the last two films I saw him in, Dracula's Dog (1978) and Bloody Birthday (1981), were hardly vehicles that showcased his true talents, but I suppose in Hollywood, to maintain a sense of longevity in terms of an acting career, you take what you can get...also appearing is Charles Bickford (Brute Force, A Star Is Born) and Barbara O'Neil (Gone with the Wind, I Remember Mama).

As the film begins we see an attractive woman (Tierney) leaving a department store (stores have valet parking? I gotta get out more...), soon to be accosted by the store detective, as she's caught stealing an expensive trinket. As she's hauled back in, protesting all the way, a man named David Korvo (Ferrer) recognizes the woman, and comes to her aide. Turns out she's Ann Sutton, wife to a prominent and affluent psychoanalyst named Dr. William Sutton (Conte). The management, seeing the possibility of negative publicity for the store, releases Ann (must be nice...if this happened to me I'd probably be enjoying the comforts of a 6 by 9 concrete room with burly man named Bubba), but thus begins her relationship with Korvo, an oily, opportunistic, highly intelligent and perceptive con artist who passes himself off as a doctor of sort, his specialty being astrology and hypnosis. Given this recent event, you'd think it a prime opportunity for blackmail, but Korvo expresses interest in helping Ann with her issues, which include a persistent case of insomnia. Ann secretly takes Korvo up on his offer mainly due to the fact her husband doesn't know about her condition, as she's afraid of the adverse effects her problems may have on her husband's career (and their marriage) if word ever got out, but Korvo's machinations prove a slippery slope marked with lies, deceit, and even murder.

There were two stand out performances here for me, that of Gene Tierney, sporting a very short hairdo (she looks so much better with it long), and José Ferrer, whose credentials I began to question lately due to some of his later choices in film roles. Tierney does a great job filling out her character, one full of emotion, passion, fear, love, and confusion. She's a strong, beautiful, and intelligent woman, struggling with her supposed role in life, specifically the perceptions of what she's supposed to be, and what she would like to be...the psychological conflict is purposely buried, but ends up manifesting itself in strange behavior. Ferrer's character, picks up on this enough so to work himself around it, insinuating himself into Ann's life, and setting in motion a carefully crafted, highly devious plan designed to misdirect, confuse, and obfuscate the truth. Oh how I hated him (his character, that is)...he was so manipulative, smug and pretentious...and greasy...oh, not physically, but on the inside. Some of my favorite lines in the film occur at the afternoon society party thrown for Korvo, as he makes various cloaked, verbal jabs at his host...was she deserving? Probably so, but once you get a full realization of from who the remarks are coming from, it tends to feel much like the pot calling the kettle black, except for the fact the kettle is really only gray and the pot is completely charred. Does that make sense? Probably not...the really interesting thing about this movie is I doubt any of the characters here are people I'd want to spend time with...a thief who has clandestine meetings with another man and keeps past indiscretions from her spouse, her knuckleheaded husband who sees his wife as more of a trophy rather than an individual, despite obvious signs the role is not a good fit for her, and a top notch con man willing to do anything to protect himself from trouble. As far as the rest of the performances, some were good, albeit familiar (Bickford), while others seemed acceptable (Conte). As intelligent as Conte's character was supposed to be, he seemed always a few steps (at least) behind what was actually going on...I guess the difficulty I had here was not with the performer, but more so the character, as he presented these perfectly simplistic notions with regards to his relationship with his wife (along with some associated lines of dialog), unable to sense the turmoil developing within, especially given his profession. Was it a case of not seeing the forest for the trees? No, it was more like not seeing the forest or the trees...I found it hard to buy off that Conte's character could be as noted and respected as he was within his profession, yet so dense when it came to his own wife. Despite this gripe, the overall story is solid, interesting and filmed immaculately well, and the dialog strong and supportive and in tune of the differing characters and the performers playing them. The story does feature some fantastical elements to be sure, but there's a level of complexity within the material that can actually support the burden, and create a sense of plausibility, for myself, at least...

The picture on this DVD, presented in the original aspect ration (1.33:1), looks exceptionally clean and sharp, and the audio comes through excellent, available in both Dolby Digital stereo and Dolby Digital mono. Special features include a commentary track with film critic Richard Schickel, a theatrical trailer, and trailers for other Fox noir DVD releases like Call Northside 777 (1948), The Dark Corner (1946), House of Bamboo (1955), Laura (1944), Nightmare Alley (), Panic in the Streets (1947), and The Street with No Name (1948).

Cookieman108
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45 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pure noir, December 19, 2005
By 
D. James (Melbourne, Australia) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
This film and its DVD treatment are superb. There's nothing left to say that hasn't already been said in great detail by other reviewers but as a classic film fanatic and a film noir junkie I cannot recommend this title enough. If you've seen and enjoyed 'Laura' and or 'Where the Sidewalk Ends', both also starring the breath-taking Gene Tierney and directed by Otto Preminger, have no hesitation in securing this DVD for your collection. The price is at least half what it's worth!
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WHAT'S WORST THAN A KLEPTOMANIAC? A HYPNOTISED KLEPTOMANIAC!, January 25, 2006
This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
"Whirlpool" is a swirl of hypnotizing deceit, revenge, and murder. The beautiful Gene Tierney plays the kleptomaniac rich wife of psychiatrist, Richard Conte, who falls prey to the evil intentions of hypnotist, Jose Ferrer. Otto Preminger directs this film noir drama, that keeps the viewers attention throughout. Jose Ferrer is especially entertaining as the menacing hypnotist, who uses Gene Tierney to do his dirty work. This movie is a classic who-done-it, which had me knowing who must have obviously done it, but wondering "how" or "who" they used to do it. This one has a great conclusion at the end of the picture. "Whirlpool" is the ninth volume in the "Fox Film Noir" series and a very good addition. I highly recommend "Whirlpool" to film noir and Gene Tierney fans, and also recommend Otto Preminger's masterpiece "Laura" and the Fox Studio Classics release "Leave Her To Heaven," a story of psychotic obsession, also starring the lovely Gene Tierney.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tierney's best acting. A noir treat!, July 24, 2006
By 
J. Kara Russell "Actress/Artist/Musician/Writer" (Hollywood - the cinderblock Industrial cubicle) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
This is a marvelous film noir story set in every day upper-middle-class America. It presents the popular ambivalence felt at the time about psychoanalysis, with one "good" Doctor and one charlatan.

I am a fan of Gene Tierney, without thinking she a great actress. She was exceptionally pretty, had a very polished manner, and very average in range. This made her a wonderful representative of both the middle class, and their hopes of being refined. To my mind, while this is not her best film (That being either THE GHOST AND MRS. MUIR or LEAVE HER TO HEAVEN), this IS her finest acting work. It uses her blankness to advantage, and this script also gives her the pathos and confusion to vent full emotional range which is rare for her films. (To the observant person, it also displays the flaws of her presentational acting style; as when she breaks down in a torrent of bitter tears, and looks up afterwards - dry eyed and serene. But for THIS film - playing a woman completely divorced from her own emotions - even that works to the benefit of the plot.)

An actor is always helped - made better, challenged more - by working with other great actors, and she is working here with one of the very best, Jose Ferrer. This was shortly before his academy award win in CYRANNO, and quite possibly, this incredibly complex performance contributed to that win, he is simply excellent. All screen villains should watch this, every second of his performance is filled with a gamut of emotions, and mundane details. It is clear that not only is his character the smartest person in the room, but Ferrer may be as well. Tierney carries the story and Ferrer moves it along. Charles Bickford also gives a marvelous performance in a smaller, yet layered role as the rumpled, grieving Detective.

Richard Conte, is the real oddball casting. His street-tough demeanor is what carried his career. (He is magnificent as the psycho mob boss in stylish expressionistic noir film, THE BIG COMBO.) So it was an interesting choice to cast him as the intellectual top-notch psychologist, and ideal husband, but it doesn't really work. We just can't really believe that people would turn to him for help, that level of sensitivity isn't there. Ultimately, this is an undercurrent of the movie, however, and Director Otto Preminger may have been making the point that even a good Psychiatrist may not be that good for people.

This film was probably shocking in its day - not very nice - like watching those lovely people next door have a drunken brawl. A larger theme which is being exposed here is that the "perfect post-war life" is an empty façade. Since this was made in 1949, this film presents a very early warning shot across the bow of the "Cleaver Family" façade. It would be almost 10 years before this was a much more common thread, in such movies as the Kim Novak/Kirk Douglas "STRANGERS WHEN WE MEET," and then films with James Dean, who became the poster boy of idyllic family life with a dysfunctional core.

The talented Ben Hecht wrote the screenplay with Andrew Solt, based on a novel by Guy Endore. Much more than mystery, much more than noir, this is a very fine story with good plot twists, emotional life (which is usually absent or ice-cold in noir), developed with subtlety and brains. It is still a joy to watch for itself, but made timeless by the despicable, love-to-hate-him performance of Jose Ferrer.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Noir Finally Makes Its Way To DVD, March 28, 2006
This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
This film has been unavailable for so many years, so to finally have it on DVD is great. It is an unusual film noir from Otto Preminger and his favorite leading lady, Gene Tierney, who had starred in his classic "Laura" and whom had just completed her maternity leave when production began on "Whirlpool".

Tierney gives a fascinating performance as Ann Sutton, the beautiful wife of a prominent psychiatrist (Richard Conte) who suffers from kleptomania but who will do anything to conceal this. When hypnotist David Korvo (Jose Ferrer, very menacing here), gets her out of a jam with the local authorities due to her shoplifting tendencies, he decides to use it as a form of blackmail against her in order to use his hypnotizing skills on her. He gets her to perform all kinds of shady deeds, while succeeding in getting her conscious mind to suppress it. She is strangely drawn to him, while her dumbfounded husband can come to only one conclusion - that she and Korvo are involved in an illicit affair. Ann desperately tries to prove her innocence, and in the process, leads all involved in a potentially deadly trap to stop Korvo.

There are echoes of "Laura" throughout, including the portrait that hangs over the mantle at the home of the ill-fated Theresa Randolph (Barbara O'Neill, best remembered as Scarlett's mother in GWTW), and the final shootout. Definitely an off-beat movie of the noir genre, it is still a very watchable one. Richard Conte is a little unconvincing as Tierney's shrink husband, but he manages to pull it off, with efficient support from Tierney and Ferrer.

Can a man make a woman do things she doesn't want to do? Watch "Whirlpool" and draw your own conclusions.

A great addition to the Fox Film Noir collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars HYPNO-VISION...., September 7, 2005
This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
A wealthy kleptomaniac(Gene Tierney) falls under the spell of a slick, debonair astrologer/hypnotist/gigolo (Jose Ferrer) and winds up accused of murder. Her psychoanalyst husband (Richard Conte) battles to figure it out. 20th Century Fox gave this film first class treatment and it shows. With Otto Preminger directing from a Ben Hecht script and Tierney's clothes designed by then husband Oleg Cassini, this noir drama has a certain high gloss look. And the DVD print is near flawless with the b&w contrasts very sharp. Tierney is lovely and properly distressed but Ferrer is fantastic as Korvo the hypnotist. Watching his performance is an acting course unto itself. Worth watching for film buffs and noir fans. Kudos to Fox for bringing these forgotten films their due.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ferrer as Satanic Svengali, February 8, 2007
By 
William Hare (Seattle, Washington) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
Jose Ferrer proved he had a strong acting presence and reached his peak in his virtuoso role in "Cyrano de Bergerac." In "Whirlpool" he is cast in a role that stretches his talents.

Ferrer can display a modicum of style mixed with a strong measure of authority when he is so disposed. Ultimately he emerges as a satanic Svengali hell bent on destroying beautiful Gene Tierney.

Tierney, for her part, is cast as a vulnerable woman who is seen as ripe pickings by the opportunistic Ferrer. After all, she is the wife of a prominent psychiatrist, played by Richard Conte in a shift from more traditionally machismo roles, and has plenty of money.

Otto Preminger, the director who specialized in films dealing with the "moral ambiguity" of America in the mid-century period, was just the person to develop such a conflict on screen in this 1949 release.

It was only natural for veteran scenarist Ben Hecht to write the screenplay, working with Andrew Solt. After all, it was Hecht who gave us such psychological thrillers working with Alfred Hitchcock as "Spellbound" and "Notorious."

The film begins with Ferrer helping Tierney out of a jam. Even though she lives an affluent life with her highly successful husband, Tierney is a kleptomaniac. When she attempts to steal a brooch from a department store the store's detective is there to apprehend her before she has a chance to drive away.

Ferrer comes to the rescue of Tierney. The store manager knows him well and immediately seeks to bring an unfortunate matter to a close. His conduct tips off viewers early that Ferrer is the type of individual who can and will cause trouble if and when he feels so disposed and has a formidable reputation.

It takes Ferrer little time to adopt his Svengali manner and seek to dominate Tierney, who in turn resists. Before long circumstances develop under Ferrer's unscrupulous planning that she is charged with a murder.

To give away more would interfere with the suspense plotting, but it can be said without giving away critical facts that Ferrer is a man who plays by the "take no prisoners" rules. Opportunism and domination are his twin hallmarks.

Just as we have an ongoing conflict in the relationship between Ferrer and Tierney, we have a corresponding cooperative alliance that emerges between Tierney's husband Conte and police-investigating detective Charles Bickford.

When Bickford sees that Conte is a loyal husband convinced that the woman he loves is innocent, Bickford confides that his wife died recently, generating empathy between the two men as he begins to increasingly believe that Tierney is an innocent victim.

Bickford, as a shrewd and veteran police officer, realizes that he can benefit from Conte's professional expertise from his background as a world famous psychiatrist. Conte's knowledge of the effects of hypnosis proves highly beneficial in helping solve the case.

Bickford at a critical juncture treats Conte more like an investigative partner rather than the husband of the official prime suspect of the moment and his strategy ploy brings results when a Conte strategy ploy results with Ferrer figuratively "hanging himself on his own petard."
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Villain In Search of A Better Vehicle, December 11, 2005
By 
David Baldwin (Philadelphia,PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
"Whirlpool" teeters between noir and melodrama sometimes too precariously towards the latter. It's an eminently watchable film despite alot of implausibilities in the story and the telegraphing of it's villain early in the film. But what a villain it is!!! Jose Ferrer's hypnotist David Korvo is a portrait of delicious villainy. Korvo views himself as a physician even if his profession is looked upon in respected circles as quackery. His modus operandi is preying on wealthy women and unearthing damaging character defects so that he can set them up for blackmail, money among other things. Ferrer milks this part for all it's worth and if this were a better film Korvo would be legend. This is not to denigrate the other principal actors in the film because they are fine as well. Gene Tierney is outstanding as Korvo's latest prey who isn't sure if she is descending into madness, as is Richard Conte as her sympathetic psychiatrist husband, and Charles Bickford as a compassionate police detective. View this film as good popcorn entertainment that does not achieve the classic noir status it attains to.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Psychoanalysis, Fox film noir style, September 15, 2005
This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
There are no hard-boiled detectives or sultry femme fatales in 'Whirlpool', so if that is your (limited) idea of film noir, then perhaps you will not like this film. The plotline about hypnotism seems taken straight out of a psychoanalysis textbook and has more to do with postwar domestic femininity than anything else. Its very enjoyable though, especially the first time around. Gene Tierney looks as beautiful as ever, although already showing signs of age, and gives a good performance, but this is really a showcase for the great Puerto Rican actor Jose Ferrer. As much as I liked it, the film will not stand as many repeated viewings as "Laura", the sublime first teaming of Gene Tierney and Otto Preminger. 'Whirlpool' looks great on the DVD transfer and I definitively recommend watching it, especially if you enjoyed the similarly themed 'Spellbound'. I think the film should be part of the collection of any film noir, Otto Preminger or Gene Tierney fan, but others may be satisfied with a simple rental.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Mystery, if not Great Nior, February 13, 2007
This review is from: Whirlpool (DVD)
"Whirlpool" is a first rate murder mystery but it's debatable if it qualifies as a noir release. Silver and Ward's encyclopedic "Film Noir" does not list it, though it does mention other releases by the lading cast members. No matter, W can stand on its' own merits. As the story opens, Gene Tierney is pinched for shoplifting by the house dick at a fancy department store in LA. Quickly, perhaps a bit conveniently, GT is sprung by a smooth talking Jose Ferrer. It develops that GT is a very vulnerable young woman. Among her problems is kleptomania and JF is quick to exploit. He hypnotizes GT under the guise of "helping her sleep at night" but he has far darker motives. It seems he has bilked Barbara O'Neill out of $60Gs and O'N wants her $$ back. Soon she is found murdered-with GT at the crime scene! As many of previous reviews have revealed the resolution, this one will try to maintain an air of mystery. Will justice be done? Is GT on her way to the electric chair? Her lawyer is planning an insanity defense! What happens? My amazon friends will have to watch for themselves, but what develops is a very solid murder mystery with many more angles than mentioned here. This reviewer believes that the males carry W. Richard Conte is GT's supportive husband, capably shedding his customary tough guy role. (He is a shrink with a penchant for taping his sessions!) Charles Bickford is perfect as the gruff but patient veteran homicide detective. And Ferrer is over the top as an effete oily, smug villain with an airtight alibi. (Wasn't he flat on his back in a hospital bed the night O'N met her demise?) One wonders why he didn't play the black hat more often. With all the references to hypnosis and kleptomania W is an easy movie to over analyze. Amazoners are urged to resist this temptation and simply enjoy W on its' own terms. Watch attentively. This is a good one, noir or not.
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Whirlpool
Whirlpool by Otto Preminger (DVD - 2005)
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