A classic noir story shot in the brilliant shadows of forties noir cinematography with all the snappy dialogue that we come to expect of the genre, Laura is fun to watch. The actors' rapid fire delivery presents quick wits, and I always like how fast these films move. The story is as circuitous as The Third Man, but Laura is clearly not as strong because the relationship between McPherson and Laura is not as well developed as The Third Man and a greater mystique is built around Orson Welles's character; regardless, to be mentioned in the same breath as The Third Man is an achievement.
Overall, if you like noir films, then this one delivers.
I however, was so very wrong.
From the moment Dana Andrews appears on the screen the film was absolutely engrossing. Not only does Preminger cull incredible performances out of these actors whom I had never seen before, save Price, the way he crafts a scene is mesmerizing. This murder mystery touches on obsession & class warfare and features a cast of unforgettable characters who spend their time casting shadows on one another other, literally and metaphorically. This film deserves every bit of praise that it receives and I am very excited about the subsequent viewings that are sure to come.
Not that it isn't a good movie. It is. It's jjust not what I expected, which was a psychological story of the obsession of a man with a portrait of a dead woman. Yeah, that's technically part of the plot line, but it was so subtle that I wouldn't have known it existed if one of the characters hadn't pointed it out. And then the story took a completely different direction. That was not necessarily a bad thing, but even then the twist wasn't resolved to my satisfaction.
I have been known to turn my nose up at a classic, only for it to grow on me as the years pass. (Shadow of a Doubt being a good example). Maybe this will do the same. But for now I have to class this an OK murder mystery, nothing more.
I'm a tremendous fan of Gene Tierney, overbite and all, and she's absolutely wonderful in the title role, but it's a little difficult to write about her performance without giving away elements of the plot that would spoil the ending for those who have not yet seen the film. Suffice it to say that the intangible darkness that one occasionally glimpses behind those beautiful eyes plays perfectly into the psyche of her character.
Was there ever a role that Vincent Price could not master? He has played everything from villainous heavies to reluctant heroes. Here in Laura he is Tierney's love interest and a prime suspect in her murder. Even though his part is one of an unscrupulous, unsympathetic leech, he still carries an aura of utter likability that is crucial to making Laura's attraction believable. There just aren't a great many actors who could have pulled that off and yet Vincent does it with ease.
And how about the talented Clifton Webb as the snobbish and possessive columnist Waldo Lydecker? His character reminds me of the cantankerous Dr. Smith from the old TV series "Lost in Space". He's rude, condescending, and spends a considerable amount of his screen time sitting in the bathtub. It is hard to imagine this role being played by anyone else.
Combine the aforementioned with genre staples like Dana Andrews and Judith Anderson and the result is a film worthy of its stature as a noir classic.
"I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor's children devoured by wolves."
the best strategy applied in this flick is its abscence of lauren hunt in the first half, and you glimpse over her while other people babblingly talk about her, your mind is guided into seeking some remnant fragrance of this deceased lovely creature. if dana andrews' copper is a necrophilia who fancies the demised lauren hunt, so are the viewers in front of silver screen....you admire her well-porportioned facial contour and her glaringly demure wardrobe which just seems so perfectly agreeable on her, and every smile of hers sublimates you into an unknown heavenly bliss.
unlike the most noir pieces which tend to taut audience's crave for the femme fatale by enlongating the hero's anguished hunger, "laura" gratifies your secret wish by resurrecting laura hunt at its pinnacle of cynicism: while the copper stares into her portrait with agonized desire, and a cup of whiskey over his hand to mourn for his crush, with an annoying bystander commenting "i don't think i have a patient to fall in love with a corpse." just as he almost worsens into irrevocable bitterness, laura walks into the doorgate to salve him with her re-incarnation into life to grant his romantic wish.
another clever strategy about the story is that laura hunt is never aware of the perils of her charm, and she's oblivious to her surroudings...she just gleams with the ease of her natural glamour without any deliberated trial. she even sympathesizes her attempted murderer with an redeeming mercy. it's more of a romantic story of fatal obsessions and un-requited love. clift webb gives good portrait of a poignant lonesome man who is boiled with un-fulfilled desire for love. and there's finally a flick to provide judith anderson with a chance to present her glamourized self with elegant wardrobe, and as usual she gives good performance as a nymphomaniac aging socialite who loves vincent price's playboy role. dana andrews is in the right niche of his machismo. as for vincent price, he's barely passable as the playboy with his contrived trial to deliver any glossy charm which doesn't really work.
something worthy of a mention, there's some greek shock-cinema called "singapore slang" trying to pay its hommage to "laura" by recycling the plots of the same name, the same symbolic portrait, the same theme melody with extreme dose of perverseness by savoring it with necrophilia, bondage, sadism & maschoism, and vommiting intercourse(yuck!)...it's weird enough to take a look at it...but if you wanna have a cozy day relaxing on the couch, leave it alone!!! it's morbidly sickening to the actual literariness.
in a nutshell, "laura" is the mostly romantic film noir ever made with feminine rosy dreaminess tuned well with masculine chivalry in a gruesome murder case.
This is a cool, short little noir about a detective investigating the murder of the title character Laura, who is portrayed as a sort of dream character for the many who knew or were involved with her.
The lead character would be the detective played by Dana Andrews, but it is clearly Vincent Price and Clifton Webb who steal the show.
They are both in love with Laura, but hate one another and have all the best lines in the film, namely Webb, who does a great job as an elderly gentleman, well respected, and very witty. Price is also interesting however as the man who knows "a little bit about everything", in a role different from the ones he normally does in his horror movies.
Mark McPherson: I must say, for a charming, intelligent girl, you certainly surrounded yourself with a remarkable collection of dopes.
Gene Tierney plays Laura, playing her as an innocent who is beautiful, and that is all that is pretty much required.
The movie has a few good twists, the plot is involving enough, but the end is where things actually become successful. Like most Noirs, the payoff is very effective and well done.
Mark McPherson: When a dame gets killed, she doesn't worry about how she looks.
Waldo Lydecker: Will you stop calling her a dame!