Posted by medusamorlock on November 9, 2009
Sure, I admit it’s only 77 short minutes long, and maybe feels more like an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but in terms of sheer creepy atmosphere played for all it’s worth by two outstanding performers, RKO’s 1952 low-budget thriller Beware, My Lovely delivers. The intelligent and talented Ida Lupino stars as Helen Gordon, a widow with a boardinghouse who hires the wrong guy as her handyman. The complex and gifted Robert Ryan plays Howard Wilton, rejected for service in WWI because of emotional issues, a poor soul who is more severely disturbed than even the military docs could have imagined. Beware, My Lovely most definitely is your parents’ stalker movie, and if things seem a little familiar along the way, it’s because movies for the last nearly sixty years have been following the same template, but hardly to better effect.
I won’t recount the whole plot now; TCM has a really detailed synopsis here (spoilers, naturally!), and there’s also a nice article on the production of the movie here. Beware, My Lovely wasn’t the first time that Lupino and Ryan had appeared together onscreen; earlier that same year RKO released On Dangerous Ground featuring the pair, and to more critical acclaim. While there may not have been much hoopla coming from the studio for Beware, My Lovely, and granted, it lays it on pretty thick sometimes, the movie still is a quick and exciting character study that genuinely has the goods to get your pulse going.
If Robert Ryan weren’t such an effective actor, you wouldn’t have even an iota of empathy for Wilton, but you do, even as he’s totally creeping you out and doing things like trying on Ida Lupino’s dead husband’s military coat, for instance, or having murderous flashbacks, or hiding door keys, or ripping telephone cords out of the wall. Things like that. You know, the normal bag of tricks the typical unhinged drifter-type usually pulls from, only seldom as well as Ryan or with such a skill that you almost can’t blame Mrs. Gordon for falling for it.
Pictures definitely tell the story here. Beware, My Lovely airs tomorrow, Tuesday November 10th, at 4:30pm, and I highly recommend you carve out an hour and a few minutes to immerse yourself in its neat atmosphere. Also interesting is the 1918 time period of the movie, a time when things like phones were a high-tech wonder and yet it feels almost more like the 19th century. Fascinating.
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