Blind Alley (1939)
Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
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as Hal Wilson
as Dr. Anthony Shelby
as Linda Curtis
as George Curtis
as Doris Shelby
as Doris Shelby
as Dick Holbrook
as Fred Landis
as State trooper
as Holmes the student
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one early cinema piece toys with pop-freudianism, and it's like the filmmaker rips off "the interpretations of dreams" and put a crime story as example for illustrations, as if the audience then needs to be re-educated with some basic terms for psychoanalysis (perhaps still need that?)
a trigger-happy criminal takes hostage of a psychoanalyst's household and impulsively murders several men in fits of un-controllable rages, and he suffers from paranoaic nightmares and headache, so the doctor says he needs to confess to relieve his pain..then the criminal does. it turns out that he accidentally gets his father killed and the scenes in past memories get repressed and sublimated into other metaphoric objects in his dreams that continue to torment him with guilt. the result of diagnosis is: he's trigger-happy when he's provoked because he feels the need to eliminate the haunting vision of his dad (metaphoric patricide) everytime he gets upstaged and threatened, when he feels insecured about his power. but when doctor cures off his symton, his compulsively repeated nightmares, he also kills off the criminal's survival instinct. in the end, he loses his trigger-happy quickness and is unable to shoot back when the police arrives to arrest him...he dies.
the same story gets adapted again in 40s with william holden as the title role. but i still think the 30s version superior. and ann dvorak, paul muni's sister in scarface, plays the criminal's moll, another gritty performance from this good actress so full of nervous energies and hard-boiled street-wise one-liners.
Interesting premise: a gangster and his henchmen (and henchwoman) rob a family, and then hold the family hostage in their home while they wait for their getaway boat. Meanwhile, the head of the household, a psychiatrist, notices how troubled the gangster is and tries to "cure" him. Film is a bit dated now and the field of psychology has changed a bit since the 1930s, but it's still interesting to watch Dr. Shelby get inside the head of the gangster and Ralph Bellamy is great in this role. This movie is not available on VHS or DVD so catch it on Turner Classic Movies when you can.
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