Sudden Fear Reviews

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rubystevens
Super Reviewer
October 19, 2010
crazy crawford vehicle that verges on camp at times but hang in there for the explosive climax!! also featuring sleazy jack palance and gloria grahame. good stuff
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2012
"Sudden Fear" is not much more than an ordinary thriller, but it is directed and acted so perfectly that it is uniquely gripping and satisfying. Its stars, Joan Crawford and an alarmingly young and studly Jack Palance, both won Oscar nominations for their work in the film. Not many thrillers can say that. Director David Miller may have had a lackluster career overall, but he was in top form here.

Crawford plays a highly successful playwright, Palance a struggling actor trying to get a part in one of her plays. The two eventually fall in love, marry, and move to her native San Francisco, despite a fairly significant age difference.

The movie plays like a delightful love story until a shocking turning point morphs it suddenly into a film noir. I won't reveal the details and ruin the surprise. I'll just say that you'll be on the edge of your seat every minute, and the emotional shock that Crawford's character undergoes you will feel deeply.
dietmountaindew
Super Reviewer
½ January 16, 2008
poetic justice is a common term in ancient greek drama as ""virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished, often in modern literature by an ironic twist of fate intimately related to the character's own conduct."" (wikipedia). vintage noir pictures, under he surveillance of morality code, are also required to have the villain punished in the end despite its skeptism toward the decarmation of the good and evil within human nature. when it comes to joan crawford's "sudden fear", POETIC IRONY would be the term i consider apt for its spirit.

a broadway female playwright (joan crawford) fires an actor on stage, who is casted as the lead in her newly written play because she considers him somehow insincere, and too slick for the romantic hero of his play. ironically, later she falls head over heels in love with the actor she fires when she bumps into him on the train. thus he becomes the love of her life, her lawful husband. the man even swoons her over his feet by lyrically reciting the quotes of her play.BUT unexpectedly she discovers that he schemes to murder her to get her inheritance because her recording phonograph accidentally tracks down his private conversation with another woman, and the heart-aching truth is that he never loves her for one second! (it's like, if you could discern immediately that this man is dubiously sleek for the drama-play but in real life, you're gullible enough to be tricked by the same routine without ruminative second thought!)

but, dismayed as she is, she carelessly ruins the only evidence to prove his murder-scheme against her. therefore, she has to do some precautionary acts for survival and also to entrap this pair of cuckolds into the righteous course of poetic justice...as for what she will do, that's the most fascinating part of the movie as crawford performs the ultimate fury conflicted by her self-contradictive conscience.

"sudden fear" also has some perverse forms of sexuality rendered thru sadomascohistic inneundos between the interactions of jack palance and gloria grahame who are the adulterers, such as "i love you so much that i could break your bones" (an eerie expression of love, isn't it?)..in one scene, man inflicts some physical violence to the woman by pushing her off to the coach meanwhile threatening her that he would disfigure her face if she reveals his dark secret, but oddly the woman responds cheerfully "thank you, thanks a lot...for still loving me" while igniting a cigarette. (code of sex in the old noir, whenever you see man and woman light off cigarette for each other, that means they're intermingled in sex since noir thrived after the 1934 morality code. sex had to be suggested thru various gimmicks)

one last good picture of joan crawfood in her final comeback in 1950s when film noir was about to be obselete due to the bloody maccarthyism.

crawford is the only actress hard-boiled enough to pull off the position of sap in noir piece. (maybe bette davis could as well, but miss davis' movies turn out to be melodrama much more often than noir)...great pop-freudian-ism illustrated by expressionistic cinematographies, such as the sequence of crawford having nightmares about her husband trying various brutal ways to kill her off....isn't it great? when the world is artfully presented in the dichotomy of black and white, when the talented elites still give a shit to psychoanalysis and glorifies it thru various forms of avant-garde craftsmanship like noir for one example. that was before noir became a nostalgic product for blank parody and immitations...
Super Reviewer
½ September 5, 2010
I really want to see this movie again, I can't remember why I liked it so much!
Super Reviewer
½ December 30, 2007
Jack Palance steals the show in this intrestingly shot thriller
jjnxn
Super Reviewer
½ March 29, 2007
melodramatic but its is joan after all so you know that going in
Super Reviewer
April 15, 2014
Crawford and Palance have an art in presenting us with the very best of mystery of suspense and they don't let us down here. The action is fabulous and the climax fantastic.
October 9, 2011
Not my favorite, but Joan Crawford does do a splendidly emotional acting job. The story got more exciting in the end; the plot took a while to get on its feet, and I didn't know where the tale was going until much later. Though it had a worthwhile moral and unique twist, both typical of the genre.
March 6, 2008
Another amazing Crawford classic, Palance is a freak and weird looking even as a young man. See this!
March 6, 2007
a dynomite film noir thriller...and joan once again is outstanding as a woman whos comes to learn her new hubby is out to kill her.
January 17, 2007
this is her best movei she should of got an oscar. jack palacen is good too. hollywood make her bad scripts or she wold be the best actress ever.
August 2, 2011
One of the best film noirs of all time, extremely stylish and intelligent in it's story and craft.
September 17, 2013
A wonderful film from start to finish...
July 12, 2013
Joan Crawford, an actress whose eyes can tell the story. That's how good she is.
Truly a suspenseful thriller.
Very well done.
November 19, 2012
It's not the best Joan Crawford's performance, but it's the best Joan Crawford's movie. I found myself saying "Oh, no" and "Don't do this" during the whole thing because I was so involvend with the plot. Even one person of my family that do not like watching old, black and white movies, sat on the sofa very curious about the thrilling ending. And this is the final prove of how engrossing the movie is.
Bill D 2007
Super Reviewer
March 18, 2012
"Sudden Fear" is not much more than an ordinary thriller, but it is directed and acted so perfectly that it is uniquely gripping and satisfying. Its stars, Joan Crawford and an alarmingly young and studly Jack Palance, both won Oscar nominations for their work in the film. Not many thrillers can say that. Director David Miller may have had a lackluster career overall, but he was in top form here.

Crawford plays a highly successful playwright, Palance a struggling actor trying to get a part in one of her plays. The two eventually fall in love, marry, and move to her native San Francisco, despite a fairly significant age difference.

The movie plays like a delightful love story until a shocking turning point morphs it suddenly into a film noir. I won't reveal the details and ruin the surprise. I'll just say that you'll be on the edge of your seat every minute, and the emotional shock that Crawford's character undergoes you will feel deeply.
½ February 2, 2012
Myra Hudson (Crawford) is an extremely successful playwright, who hastily marries much younger actor Lester Blaine (Palance), whom she has just fired from a play. Their marriage is happy for a few months, and Myra decides that when she dies, she will leave Lester $10,000 every year until he remarries. She records the will with a tape-recorder, but she accidentally leaves it on-- which leads her to discover that Lester and his mistress Irene (Grahame) are plotting to kill her before she signs the will-- so all of her money will go to them. But Myra isn't going to let them get away with it, and creates an elaborate plot to kill Lester. Will she go through with it? "Sudden Fear" is known for being one of the top five most essential Joan Crawford film noirs, and well as just being one of the best film noirs of all time, something I find very hard to disagree with. Though the plot is pretty common from the genre, and it can get a little bit melodramatic at times, it's very hard to deny that this film is extremely suspenseful, very well acted, and has an unpredictable plot. Though done a little bit lavishly for a film noir (which were usually on B-standard budgets at the time), this film is entertaining and unforgettable all at the same time. Crawford looks great and acts her heart out (and she ended up getting her last Oscar- nomination), Palance is super freaky in his menacing role (and it really made his career take off), and Grahame is smoldering as the sexy femme fatale of the film. Though this film is a bit too melodramatic to be a straight up gritty thriller, there's something about "Sudden Fear" that is just plain unforgettable. Recommended.
March 9, 2010
Nominated for 4 major Oscars (but not Best Picture) and should have won best actor and actress roles for Joan Crawford/Jack Palance. The action really gets going half way through this one as wealthy Crawford gets taken in by now veteran actor Jack Palance as her newly wed husband. A revised legal will provides the spark that starts the suspense.

A 1952 RKO Radio Pictures feature film starring Joan Crawford and Jack Palance in a noir-ish tale about a successful woman who marries a murderous man. Money is the name of the game in this taught action thriller, it reminded me of a Hitchcock film in its making.

But Crawford sweats it out, literally, by finding a way to entrap the ones trying to kill her, namely her new husband, Palance. Co-stars Gloria Grahame as co-conspirator and girlfriend of Palance. She does all the plotting, he does the execution.

Crawford, as a playwrite, uses a recording device to write her plays. However, forgeting to turn it off one night snares her new husband and mistress Grahame in their web of deceit and plot to kill her, by way of an accident, of course.

This was to achieve gaining the estate of wealthy Crawford immediately, rather than waiting for her natural death and then only getting a yearly 10 thousand dollars a year. The bulk of her estate was to go to a charity.

Crawford, once so gay and obviously giddy about her new found husband, practically collapses when she hears by chance the plans for her demise from Palance and his girlfriend Grahame on her recording machine. Imagine her horror!

Takes some waiting to get to the action, but it is well worth it as tension builds exponentially. Crawford devises a plan to kill Palance but can't carry it through. Trapped in a closet at Grahame's place, the tension is near unbearable.

Not for the faint of heart, watch it with someone. The close ups of Crawford's face is as good as it gets when tension mounts.

The musical score by Elmer Bernstein, frequent contributor to several later John Wayne western films, adds to the movie most impressively.

Sudden Fear is exactly the title for this thriller. An interesting turn of events is how Crawford turns Palance down, early in the film, for a romantic role in her play. But in real life, has chance encounters and tries to get his attention. Finally she succeeds on a train trip to California, which Palance also by chance rides.

The pair marry, oddly enough. And there the nightmare begins. Highly recommended and watchable more than once.

In 1984, writer Spencer Selby noted, "Undoubtedly one of the most stylish and refined woman-in-distress noirs."



NOTES about the film:

1 Marlon Brando was originally offered the role of Lester Blaine.

2 Sudden Fear was nominated for Academy Awards for:- Best Actress in a Leading Role: Joan Crawford, Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Jack Palance, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White and Best Costume Design, Black-and-White.

3 According to a story told by Jack Palance,... Joan Crawford and Gloria Grahame did not get along and got into a physical altercation at one point during the filming. The fight started after Grahame sat on the edge of the set during a Crawford closeup and very obviously sucked and smacked loudly on a lolly pop in an attempt to wind Crawford up. It worked, and Palance noted that the all male crew watched the fight for a few moments rather curiously before stepping in to end it.

4 Quotes
Myra Hudson: [to Lester]

"I haven't even got my lipstick on! A woman has to wear lipstick. I'd feel positively naked without it!"




Directed by David Miller
Produced by Joseph Kaufman
Joan Crawford (uncredited)

Written by Lenore J. Coffee
Robert Smith
Edna Sherry (Novel)


Starring
Joan Crawford
Jack Palance
Gloria Grahame

Music by Elmer Bernstein

Cinematography Charles Lang, Jr.
Editing by Leon Barsha
Distributed by RKO Radio Pictures
Release date(s) August 6, 1952 (1952-08-06)


Running time 110 minutes
½ January 12, 2011
Joan Crawford - Legendary screen icon of the classic era. In her day she was amongst the biggest stars and top attractions in Hollywoodland. She became a well known actress during the 1920's, featuring in dramas like Grand Hotel (1932) but it was later in her career during 1940's that she had her most successful period culminating in an Oscar for Best Actress in Mildred Pierce (1945). She starred in a series of thrillers around this time including Sudden Fear, a delicously dark noir melodrama.

Myra Hudson (Crawford) is a rich and successful playwright. She has everything in her life except love. Step forward Lester Blaine (Jack Palance) a struggling actor who meets, woos and eventually marries her. All seems to be going well until Lesters ex girlfriend locates and teams up with him. With knowledge, heard through the grapevine that Myra intends to give a large part of her fotune to charity, a plan is cooked up to murder her before she can change her will. Unexpected twists and turns arise and revenge is not far away.

Sudden Fear is about control and influence. Myra has made a success of herself and through influencing others. Her very first meeting with Lester results in him being rejected for her new play (it was a chance meeting a month later that they become friendly). Later when she finds out about the darstadly plot against her, she attempts to set up the conspirators and manipulate them as if they are unconscious actors and she is a director of a play.

Faces are a recurring theme. As this is a Joan Crawford vehicle there are plenty of close ups of her strong featured, heavily made up glamorous visage. The money shot has a close up of Crawford with the shadow of a pendulum from a clock swinging against her face as she hatches her plan of revenge. Jack Palance's mug is distinctive (during World War 2 he had plastic surgery due to combat injuries) with it's sharp angles and is used to good effect with lighting techniques helping to accentuate his features. This helps give him an air of mystery. It was during the first scene after being rejected from the play that he gave a fine speech about his his looks. Permanently pouting Gloria Grahame as the ex girlfriend adds beauty to the roll call of faces.


Overall a well crafted revenge thriller, which begins with a gentle set up, an eventfull middle act leading to a thrilling, edge of the seat third act finale.

Interesting fact (or piece of gossip): Crawford fought against the casting of Palance calling him the ugliest man in Hollywood, ironic as this mirrors the first scene in the film. The producer persuaded her that Palance was the only man scary enough to make her character more sympathetic than her.
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