After last week’s melodrama, #bnoirdetour returns to darker noir suspense with 1949’s The Hidden Room (originally released as Obsession in England, where it was produced).
London psychiatrist Dr. Clive Riordan (Robert Newton — a year after playing Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist and a year before he’d forever become known as Long John Silver) vows revenge when he discovers his wife (Sally Gray) has taken a lover (Phil Brown) — and not for the first time. He becomes, of course, obsessed and his vengeance involves a hidden room! (The novel the film is based on was called A Man About a Dog, so yes, there will also be a dog, but I promise no pooch was harmed in the making of this movie.) The cinematography is pure noir, even as characterization is all suspense, not unlike a Hitchcock picture.
The director is not Hitch but Edward Dmytryk, best known to noir lovers for Crossfire (1947), for which he was nominated for a Best Director Oscar, and Murder My Sweet (1944). Dmytryk was a Canadian-born man who grew up in San Francisco and became one of noir’s most known directors. He was also one of the Hollywood Ten (who all refused to testify when summoned by HUAC — the House Unamerican Activities Committee). He was to be imprisoned when he fled to England in mid-1948, where he was granted a work permit and made Obsession. By 1950, he returned, and did testify, giving 26 names to extricate himself and save his career. It was a bleak time and people made bleak decisions, we might say if we are feeling generous.
Hope you’ll join in the claustrophic thrills this Sunday, 10/11, at 9pm ET.