Happy #Noirvember! TMP will be celebrating film noir with a review from the genre every Sunday this month. First up, a criminal tale from a director better-known for his work in the horror genre: William Castle. On to the review!
Millie Baxter (Kim Hunter) is a newlywed, bound by train for New York. Her new husband, Paul (Dean Jagger), is a salesman and was called away on business just after their wedding. She plans to meet him at the Sherwin Hotel, leaving her small-town midwest home to start a new life with him.
When she arrives in New York, Millie finds that her husband has not yet arrived at the Sherwin. Instead, she sees an unexpected face: Fred Graham (Robert Mitchum), an old boyfriend from her hometown. She tells Fred of her marriage, and enlists his help when Paul still hasn’t shown up the next morning.
As more time passes with Paul nowhere to be found, Millie gets suspicious. He was traveling to New York from Philadelphia… and a murder has just happened in Philadelphia, dubbed the “Silk Stocking Murder” because stockings were used to strangle the victim. Could Millie’s missing husband be the culprit?
When Strangers Marry was directed by William Castle. The screenplay was written by Dennis J. Cooper and Philip Yordan, from a story by George Moscov. It was also re-released under the alternate title Betrayed.
I’m a big fan of William Castle’s gimmicky horror flicks. The Tingler has long been a favorite of mine. In fact, it was one of the films that helped turn me into a major classic movie fanatic.
When Strangers Marry isn’t your usual Castle flick, which made me all the more interested to watch it. He’s known for his “Emergo,” “Percepto,” and “Illusion-O” spook tactics — not for crafting taut noir. I was pleased to find that When Strangers Marry offers a generally well-executed story, Castle bringing it to life with plenty of tension.
Just as William Castle isn’t your average noir director, Kim Hunter isn’t your average noir heroine. She’s much more innocent than the most well-known dames of the genre, and terribly naive. Marrying a man you’ve only met three times and have a strange feeling about? That’s never a good idea!
Hunter gives a strong performance in the role, though. She’s likable and sympathetic. With all of her anxieties and suspicions, she comes to feel isolated, despite the fact that she’s newly married and living among hundreds of thousands of people in the big city. The viewer really feels for her as her suspicions grow.
And they have plenty of reason to grow. Dean Jagger is awfully secretive in his role of Paul. Jagger doesn’t really bring any distinction to the character beyond what we’d see on paper, but the character himself adds plenty of mystery and suspense to the film. He isn’t menacing, however. He has his secrets, but never seems like a danger to Millie.
Tensions only grows as the film moves along and Millie’s situation gets more complicated. Robert Mitchum’s character brings a thoroughly dramatic twist to the film that sends Millie on the run. (Mitchum’s performance is good, but not quite as evil as it could be!)
Much of what I enjoyed about the film comes thanks to the script and the performance by Kim Hunter. There’s also some wonderful use of lighting throughout, which I’m a total sucker for. The conclusion could have been drawn out and milked for even more suspense, but still, I’d consider When Strangers Marry a top-notch B-movie!