Customer Reviews: High Wall
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4.1 out of 5 stars
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on December 16, 2011
The movie starts with ex WW2 hero Steven Kenet(Robert Taylor)driving with the body of his dead wife,Helen(Dorothy Patrick)next to him.Steve believes he murdered her but is trying to protect his young son,Bobby(Robert Hyatt).Everyone believes Steve is guilty.
Soon Steve is arrested and put into a mental institution.
DR Ann Lorrison(Audrey Totter)working on Steves case doesnt believe hes guilty and is slowly falling in love with him.
Williard I Whitcombe(Herbert Marshall)who was having an affair with Helen,wants Steve kept in the mental hospital at all costs.
Good Hitchcock type thriller.Film Noir at its very BEST.
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HALL OF FAMEon February 2, 2011
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) presents "HIGH WALL" (1947) (99 min/B&W) (Fully Restored/Dolby Digitally Remastered) -- Starring Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter, Herbert Marshall, Dorothy Patrick & Warner Anderson

Directed by Curtis Bernhardt

Former army pilot Robert Taylor is accused, on the basis of strong circumstantial evidence, of his wife's murder. Suffering from periodic blackouts, Taylor isn't so certain of his innocence himself. When offered a brain operation, Taylor refuses, knowing that if he is proven sane he will be executed for murder. Instead, he opts for confinement in a high-walled veteran's mental institution. A compassionate lady doctor (Audrey Totter) falls in love with Taylor, convincing him to have the operation. Even after emerging from the ether, Taylor cannot remember any of the details concerning his wife's death but he does recall that the dead woman had recently taken a job with a publisher (Herbert Marshall) of religious books. The search for answers begins.

The High Wall is indeed a worthy Noir, and I share the opinion with other viewers, that Taylor is much more interesting once the glamor started to fade from his persona. High Wall still holds well up today.

1. Curtis Bernhardt [Director]
Date of Birth: 15 April 1899 - Worms, Germany
Date of Death: 22 February 1981 - Pacific Palisades, California

2. Robert Taylor [aka: Spangler Arlington Brugh]
Date of Birth: 5 August 1911 - Filley, Nebraska
Date of Death: 8 June 1969 - Santa Monica, California

3. Audrey Totter
Date of Birth: 20 December 1918 - Joliet, Illinois, USA
Date of Death: Still Living

4. Herbert Marshall [aka: Herbert Brough Falcon Marshall]
Date of Birth: 23 May 1890 - London, England, UK
Date of Death: 22 January 1966 - Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California

Mr. Jim's Ratings:
Quality of Picture & Sound: 4 Stars
Performance: 4 Stars
Story & Screenplay: 5 Stars
Overall: 4 Stars [Original Music, Cinematography & Film Editing]

Total Time: 99 min on DVD ~ Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer ~ (11/23/2010)
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on January 7, 2012
High Wall is a departure for Robert Taylor. In the 30's he portrayed mostly handsome society boys. In 1941 he toughened up his image with Johnny Eager. This is an entirely different path. The lead character, Steven Kenet, has returned from a job flying freight in Asia after his service in WW II. He's eager to see his wife and displeased to find out she has a job. Kenet is even more displeased when he discovers she is having an affair with her boss. To complicate matters, he has a brain injury and is suffering blackouts and other symptoms. Seeing his wife in her lover's apartment triggers rage and violence. The wife is dead and Kenet is the only suspect. He confesses and is committed to a mental institution for psychiatric evaluation. The unique thing about the film to me is Taylor's ability to play vulnerability. Kenet is neither a pretty boy nor a villain. He is a man in torment. Taylor uses his shoulders beautifully to portray hopelessness. They droop in the scenes where the character is locked in solitary confinement. After his operation they are straight. The confusion on his face when he's offered an opportunity to see his son at the hospital is masterful as he passes through a range of emotions moving from delight to doubt to anger to confusion. There is a remarkable sequence in which Kenet is dragged off after attacking a visitor. Taylor's body positions change constantly--this is hardly the "wooden" acting for which he is so often condemned. Another great sequence is his walk up the stairs at the end to see his son. Kenet's face radiates joy. The camera work is stylish and the chiaroscuro is masterful. This movie was apparently not well received in its time probably because it isn't the "Robert Taylor" people expected and it is largely forgotten now. It deserves to be remembered.
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on March 10, 2013
Audrey Totter and Robert Taylor are a terrific team in this somehat muddled film whose plot is easy to decipher when Herbert Marshall enters the film as the killer of wandering wife Dorothy Patrick. Film will keep you involved in its plot convolutions.
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on June 8, 2013
"High Wall" is a 1947 black and white murder mystery combined with a look at psychiatric care.

Good looking Robert Taylor (1911-69) plays a man with amnesia suspected of murdering his wife. Taylor achieved some success in films like "Magnificent Obsession" (1935), "Camille" (1936), and "A Yank at Oxford" (1938), and this film came at the peak of his career. He followed this one with two of his most memorable - "Ivanhoe" (1952), and "Knights of the Round Table" (1953). If you're a Taylor fan, this is one his better performances.

Audrey Totter (1918) plays a Psychiatrist who helps Taylor recover his memory. Totter is best known as one of Hollywood's film noir queens, with films like "Main Street After Dark" (1945), "The Postman Always Rings Twice" (1946), and "The Unsuspected" (1947) She transitioned to TV in the 50s and appeared in several series ("Medical Center", "Our Man Higgins"). Totter is definitely not noir in this film, and it shows how good her acting could be when not confined to that genre.

Herbert Marshall (1890-1966) plays a suspect. Marshall appeared in more than 50 films between 1927 and 1965. He could play comedy ("Trouble in Paradise") or drama ("Foreign Correspondent") and his distinctive voice was often used in voice overs.

German born Curtis Bernhardt (1899-1981) followed up his success with "Possessed" with this film. Bernhardt went on to make several unremarkable films, including "Sirocco" (1951) with Humphrey Bogart and "Miss Sadie Thompson" (1953) with Rita Hayworth.

Films about mental hospitals were popular in the late 40s - Hitchcock's 1945 thriller "Spellbound", Joan Crawford in "Possessed" (1947), "Home of the Brave" (1948), and "The Snake Pit" (1949). It's interesting to look at conditions at the hospital. There were 2500 patients and only 12 doctors. Dormitories and dining rooms look even worse than prisons, and the patients wear clothing that looks like prison discards. The only types of therapy we see are hydrotherapy and "narcotherapy". The patients are depicted as either manic or catatonic.

This film is often characterized as "film noir" which clearly it isn't, though there are some film noir elements, including a returned veteran who doesn't fit in, lots of night scenes and lots of rainy nights, along with infidelity and murder. As well, the director made several noir-ish films, as did the screen writer, Sydney Boehm ("The Big Heat", "Side Street") and the lead actress was more often than not, in film noir. But there is no femme fatale, and the hero really isn't led astray, nor is there a downbeat ending.

1947 wasn't the best year for films. The Oscar winners were "Miracle on 34th Street" and "Gentlemen's Agreement" and the box office leaders included "Unconquered", "The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer", "Mother Wore Tights" and "Life with Father." Other notable films that year were "Dark Passage" (Bogart), "The Lady From Shanghai" (Orson Welles), and "Possessed" (Joan Crawford).

Bottom line - interesting from the POV of inpatient psychiatric care circa 1947. Fans of Robert Taylor or Audrey Totter will be impressed by their acting in this film, although film noir fans will find it lacking.
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on July 7, 2015
Robert Taylor was great! Let me say it again. Robert Taylor was great! He took on a role quite different from any he had done before and he delivered!! There are turns and twists that are not expected and the whole cast adds to the edginess of the film. The use of light and dark in this film is well done. I loved H. B. Warner in this film. It had been a decade since his wonderful performance in LOST HORIZON and it was great to see him make the most of a very small part and stand out once again.
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on March 18, 2013
Love the suspense of Robert Taylor trying to figure out who killed his wife. Another great black and white movie.
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on May 16, 2014
This is a very routine murder mystery in most respects. It was part of a wave of late-1940's movies which used the idea that psychiatry was becoming an exact science, and therefore could be used to solve mysteries or otherwise advance the plot, sort of like a mental "CSI".

Alfred Hitchcock's "Spellbound" (1945) is perhaps the best remembered example of the type, and "The Dark Past" (1948) with Lee J. Cobb and William Holden comes to mind as well. In "The High Wall", the psychology gimmick is the use of truth serum, here referred to as "narco-synthesis". It doesn't make a lot of difference what it is, although its use in the final scenes of the movie is outrageous by today's standards

Otherwise, the movie is ordinary. It is an MGM production, so everything is slickly done and all the actors are competent. Robert Taylor is quite good, and Audrey Totter avoids the trap of falling into his arms, at least until the plot shoves her with both hands. Herbert Marshall is OK, but has too little screen time to really shine. Who the murderer is seemed painfully obvious from the start. The movie itself tips its hand in that respect about two-thirds through, so I don't think "Who did it?" was meant to be a mystery.

I do not know enough about directing to comment on it, except to say that it seemed competent or better. I noticed some use of "first person camera", which was another fad of the period. The movie starts out fast and dramatically...and then slows down as if poleaxed once Taylor's character is sent to a county asylum for mental evaluation (and brain surgery!)

Nothing in the movie is bad, yet there is really nothing in the major elements of it to recommend spending your time on it. It was a typical American movie of the period in being all about the plot, and the plot is pretty obvious from the start. About the only things I noted about it were a) brain surgery does not mess up your hair if you are Robert Taylor, and b) paper towels were a household item in 1947.

However, there is a scene in this movie that was so jarring to me, so startling in a major-studio, major star, movie from the 1940's that was meant to be about realistic people doing realistic things, that I decided to write this review of it. I am probably making too much of it, since no other review mentions it, but to me it was the most remarkable thing in the movie. I do not wish to spoil it here, so I will say only that it involves Vince Barnett (of the original "Scarface" and about 200 other movies) and Herbert Marshall. There are many movies I have seen that I do not remember a single thing about, but I will definitely remember this bit about this movie.
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on October 20, 2014
undrerrated masterpiece to be rediscovered, highly recommendable
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on November 25, 2011
**1/2 The title of the film refers to the walls of the county asylum and to the hero's amnesia. Medical students may find attractive this ode to the benefits of Pentothal but certainly not amateurs of film noir. However I liked Herbert Marshall and his lassitude. Already forgotten.
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