Monday, January 12, 2009

Laura (1944)

I’ve been trying to figure out what I didn’t like about “Laura,” and I think it comes down to the movie trying to pack too many noir mystery staples into one film. The title character is played by Gene Tierney, who is one swell-looking doll. The movie starts with detective Mark McPherson (Dana Andrews) investigating Laura’s murder. He finds no shortage of suspects, including Laura’s fiancé Shelby (Vincent Price), Laura’s aunt, who is keen on Shelby, Shelby’s girl-on-the-side, and Laura’s aged admirer Waldo (Clifton Webb). The movie takes us through the usual rigamarole in which we suspect each person in turn. It also throws in plenty of twists that will be familiar to noir-lovers.

I’m not sure what place “Laura” is supposed to hold in the world of noir. I get the impression it is considered something of a classic, but I never got that magical feeling that is the hallmark of a classic. For example, one major plot device is that detective McPherson finds himself falling in love with Laura as he learns more about her and repeatedly sees her picture. This side of the story may be better developed in the novel, but in the film his morbid attraction is handled in a fairly perfunctory manner. “Laura” is entertaining, but it lacks the distinction of a true classic like “Double Indemnity,” which came out the same year.

2.5 stars out of 5

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