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Audience Score

User Ratings: 332
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Movie Info

Richard Basehart plays a meek, henpecked chemist whose wife (Audrey Totter) is unfaithful. Using his knowledge of undetectable poisons, Basehart formulates a plan to murder his wife's lover. He eventually decides against so drastic a measure, but finds himself Suspect Number One when the lover is murdered anyway. Tension belies its title halfway through, but recovers for an acceptably heart-pounding finale. The film was one of several interesting "noir" melodramas directed by John Berry before the Blacklist forced him to work in Europe.


Richard Basehart
as Warren Quimby
Audrey Totter
as Claire Quimby
Barry Sullivan
as Lt. Collier Bonnabel
Cyd Charisse
as Mary Chanler
Lloyd Gough
as Barney Deager
Tom D'Andrea
as Freddie
William Conrad
as Lt. Edgar Gonsales
Philip Van Zandt
as Lt. Schiavone
Tommy Walker
as Man at Counter
Steve Roberts
as Attendant
Virginia Brissac
as Mrs. Andrews
Ray Bennett
as House Manager
Kitty McHugh
as Waitress
John Gallaudet
as Newspaperman
Peter Brocco
as Technician
Carl Sklover
as Reporter
Bert Davidson
as Reporter
Mike Morelli
as Reporter
Stephen Roberts
as Attendant
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Critic Reviews for Tension

All Critics (2) | Top Critics (1)

Audience Reviews for Tension

  • Aug 20, 2018
    There's nothing too special here, but it's an entertaining enough noir. Audrey Totter plays a materialistic woman cheating on her pharmacist husband (Richard Basehart), a nice guy who is crushed when she leaves him for another man. He assumes an alter ego based on a brand new technology (contact lenses!), and plots revenge. Along the way he meets a nice girl (Cyd Charisse), who puts a delightful wrinkle in his plans. Totter has a wonderfully strong edge in this film, scheming and openly defiant of her husband. The scene where she appears with eyes flashing in the mirror is probably the film's strongest. Unfortunately the rest of the cast don't keep up with her. Barry Sullivan is reasonably strong as the detective, as is William Conrad as his sidekick, but he lacks a little in the 'tough guy' department. I liked seeing Charisse who has such a fresh face and is so likeable, but I'm not sure how deep her character or performance was. Other than Totter, there's just something missing, some grit or hardness, which prevents this from being a very good or great film. Also, quite a bit of the rest of the plot is telegraphed, and without a lot of subtlety. As for direction, it's decent, and the shots in the pharmacy and the street outside of it are good, as there is so much detail in the entire frame during these scenes. There was also something that was interesting about seeing a more obscure, 'B' film noir, which never committed any major errors, even if it didn't hit any homeruns.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 15, 2016
    Failed film noir, yet nonetheless a treat for fans of the genre. Director John Berry and cinematographer Harry Stradling Sr.deliver the goods with gorgeous, stark visuals. Berry lays the femme fatale archetypes on thick: the platinum blonde who is bored and seeks adventure with other men, the boozy saxophone music every time she appears and her double-crossing antics. Audrey Totter plays the role of Claire Quimby with relish. Married to a boring pharmacist who can only offer her love and a home Totter wants out. Hubby Warren Quimby, played by Richard Basehart, can't stop her from running off with another man so he devises an elaborate plot to kill her lover so he can have her back. This is where the picture starts to stumble. Mr. Quimby begins to fall for another woman and the sparks never fly. Hard to believe that Basehart can't generate fireworks with the glamorous Cyd Charisse, but it's a script flaw and Berry's directing can't overcome the missing passion on the page. Berry's also doesn't deliver the suspense the film's title promises. Despite all this I enjoyed Tension and recommend it for lovers of the genre. There's enough to admire here and make one wonder what could have happened to director Berry's moviemaking career had he not been forced to flee the United States a couple of years after making this movie because he was fingered as a communist.
    Aldo G Super Reviewer
  • Feb 11, 2013
    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
    Bruce B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 14, 2010
    A pretty straightforward noir. Decent storytelling and a standout performance by Audrey Totter. I have to say I was lost as to why Cyd Charisse's character had such implicit trust in our poor badly used protagonist.
    Laura C Super Reviewer

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