There's acid in these veins. You can practically taste it as sardonic newspaper columnist Waldo Lydecker (Webb) narrates the tale of the late, lamented Laura Hunt (Tierney). Who was this mystery woman who rose from lowly advertising copy girl to enviable toast of the town, before taking two shotgun shells to the face? That's what blue-collar detective Mark McPherson (Andrews)---who never met a gal he didn't call "dame"---has to figure out as he trolls his way through the New York penthouse set. The suspects are many: Laura's lumbering fianc, Shelby (Price); the quietly treacherous Ann Treadwell (Judith Anderson); even Waldo himself, who delights in McPherson's suspicions. The detective's obsession with the case and the dead girl at the center of it grows to feverish proportions. And then who should walk through the door...
We'll leave the rest for you to discover, and really, the narrative twists of this blackest of noirs---screening at Film Forum in a crisp new 35mm restoration---are only a small part of its delights. Director Otto Preminger conjures an enveloping atmosphere thick with cynicism and dread. It's a world in which the quips are vicious ("I should be sincerely sorry to see my neighbor's children devoured by wolves," Lydecker ripostes) and a ceaselessly ticking clock marks time while hiding secrets of its own. Even the dead have their shady motivations, as suggested by the famed portrait of Laura, which hangs in the background of many scenes like a Dorian Gray--esque talisman. Guilt is omnipresent; innocence is alien. Few movies make you feel dirtier, and so perversely grateful for the pleasure.
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