Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.
as Warren Quimby
as Claire Quimby
as Lt. Collier Bonnabel
as Mary Chanler
as Barney Deager
as Lt. Edgar Gonsales
as Lt. Schiavone
as Man at Counter
as Mrs. Andrews
as House Manager
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Critic Reviews for Tension
It rambles from one thing to another in a most unsuspenseful way and ends with a shattering revelation which you can see coming a half-hour in advance.
Audience Reviews for Tension
This came from a Warner Brothers Film Noir Double Feature. For me, the highlight of this film noir was simply ogling the two female leads, played by Audrey Totter ("Claire Quimby") - who wasn't beautiful but had an incredible body - and Cyd Charisse ("Mary Chandler"), who had a much smaller role but was pleasing. They were opposites: a nasty film-noir femme fatale (Totter) and a wholesome girl-next-door (Charisse).
Totter played a number of classic blonde film noir floozies, women who sure look good on the outside but are nasty on the inside. She, Marie Windsor and Lizabeth Scott were all excellent noir "molls." Totter, as of this writing, is still alive at the age of 89. I think this was one of her better performances.
It's a good thing the characters in this film were interesting because the story was a little too slow, to be honest. It's hard to picture, especially in the last 50 years, a crime movie with no action. We don't even see the only crime committed. It is something we hear about after the fact. We can pretty much guess who did it - it is made more than obvious - so the only question remaining is how are the police going to catch "Claire."
Actually, all the actors are good in this movie and I really enjoyed some of the film noir photography. The DVD transfer of this movie, which is part of the "Film Noir Classics Collection Vol.4," is very good. Richard Basehart has the lead role as meek pharmacist "Warren Quimby." In order to hatch a plan involving murder, he dons contact lenses and darkens his hair and becomes Charisse's boyfriend, "Paul Sothern." The idea is to kill the man who took away his slimy wife, played almost to perfection by Totter.
The fairly-young-looking Basehart, like the two ladies, is very good in this film, his first noir since the excellent "He Walked By Night" released the year before. Basehart didn't begin his film career until he was in his middle '30s.
Of the two policeman, William Conrad is fairly intense but Barry Sullivan's character is bland, despite having some juicy parts.
I think this story would have been much better with a few twists to it, and I can think at least one good one: Warren's pal "Freddie" (Tom D'Andrea) in on the crime. With Freddie nosing around all the time, looking after Warren's welfare, I thought he might wind up with a bigger part in this mystery - maybe the surprise killer to help his buddy - but it wasn't to be. That's really a summation of the story: something that could have been really clever, but wasn't to be despite some good acting performances. 5 Stars 1-21-13
1949 "tension" is an underrated b picture with audrey totter who made her cameo in "postman always rings twice" as the flirtatious red-head hooks with john garfield, of course, also richard basehart who later archieves international fame in fellini's "the road" in europe right after this picture. it has all the quintessential noir elements melt with kitsch-like melodrama, but what else you could expect? it's a b picture for aficionados with a quaint knack for noir in various forms.
but its scenarios are grappling in its blatant way: a drug-store nobody who pursues his dream of 50s suburbanite lifestyle by slaving himself over the nightshifts to earn as much as he could to please his harpy wife who only fancies the luxurious goods like mink coats. but this harpy blonde would sneak any chance to cuckold him as soon as she finds some other sucker to take care of her bills, so she elopes with a liquor salesman who is apparently more capable to provide her what she wants. then this miserable nobody still refuses to concede his wife without fighting, so he shows up in the love nest of the wife and the cuckold, but he gets beaten up and sneered as "four-eyed punk"....to reclaim his pride as a man, our protagonist decides to launch a make-over of himself by getting rid of his coy glasses to re-appear as a hunky sheik named paul sothern to assassinate the cuckold...
it has the castrated sap, the ferocious dame with trademarked blonde hair, and the scheming detective copper as the fury who squares for justice. the story wheels along with a detached narrator whose simmering cynicism boils out to resonate audience's nosy by-stander mentality. as noir frequently favors to dichotomize women, there's alawys feminine nurturer to contrast the lady predator who nearly gulps men alive to attain the happy ending after the justice is served.
audrey totter was contracted b actress of mgm studio which recruits her as the bubble-bath blondie to shape another starlet with semi-lana-turner-like aroma, don't totter's hairdo and wardrobe in "tension" somehow reminiscence a bit of "postman always rings twice" in which totter also has a small but impressionable part? but totter's femme fatale may not be as glamourous as turner but definitely much more aggressive here while she glows her lines with comtemptuous mockeries to basehart. the woman characer in "tension" becomes an exaggerated grotesque of femme fatale, since b picture tends to have very limited resources so it must create its dramatic tension by deepening its stereotypes. that's what happens with "tension". it even has a music score for totter's entrance in every scene to enhance the effect as if it's notifying the audience: here comes the sexy bad woman, pretty tacky, isn't it?
just like most normally functioning dames in her time, totter chooses to settle for marriage and homelife instead of manuevering her starlet career like a down-to-earth dame, but acting comes like fun for her to tackle ocassionally during intervals. she also leaves another noir classic "the set-up" with robert ryan as the caring brunette girlfriend. "tension" and "the set-up" proves her caliber as an actress that she could play benevolent lily and malevolent wench.
I know Tension isn't that great but I liked it a lot. The otherwise ignorable Richard Basehart was pretty good (and dare I say enjoyable) as a sap pharmacist husband of the venomous Audrey Totter who is at the top of her game as his no good wife. Barry Sullivan is a straight-up dick as teh investigating copper and a young Cyd Charisse is nothing short of adorable. Not the best example of film noir but a pretty good one with lots of surprises and a story that never quite goes where you expect it to.
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