I Wake Up Screaming.
Now, that’s a great title. All it needs is a movie as good, but the 1941 production directed by H. Bruce Humberstone, isn’t really it. It’s not surprising that Twentieth Century Fox considered renaming it Hot Spot and even had ads printed with that title before the movie went into release. If the movie isn’t quite worthy of its title, it does have an effective villain in Laird Cregar. The hulking, soft-voiced actor, a memorable menace in such films as Hangover Square and The Lodger, is first seen in shadow as he turns the hot lights on Victor Mature, a sports promoter being interrogated as a suspect in the murder of an actress. As the captain in charge of the case, Cregar ignores evidence of Mature’s innocence and even admits to investing his own time and money into finding a way to pin the rap on him. Cregar, of course, is the true culprit who we learn at the climax has a shrine to the murdered girl in his apartment. Betty Grable and Carole Landis round out the cast though I’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart, and Elisha Cook, Jr, who appeared as Wilmer the gunsel in The Maltese Falcon the same year, turns up briefly as a hotel desk clerk who is also a suspect. The best moment, and the only one that ties in with the title, is when Mature wakes up in his bed to find Cregar sitting in a nearby chair, rather nonchalantly keeping watch over him even as he sleeps. The movie, a fairly solid thriller, would be much improved without its musical score. Except for the snatches of “Over the Rainbow” (yes, that “Over the Rainbow” from The Wizard of Oz), I could swear the musical score is identical to the one in Whirlpool.
© 2012 Brian W. Fairbanks
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