THE SUSPECT (1944)

The Suspect 1944 Charles Laughton

The Suspect is a period melodrama by blog favorite Robert Siodmak. This is the 9th Siodmak film I’ve reviewed here and by this point I can honestly declare that he can pretty much do everything. Seriously. Gothic horror. Two-fisted noir. And for today’s film, a murderous drama set in 1902 London. This one is light on his German expressionism influences and contains a bit more pomp than I typically enjoy, but it’s heavy on the suspense as the protagonist leaves behind a trail of bodies and must make a painful decision in the film’s final minutes.

Fancy pants Shakespearean actor Charles Laughton stars as Philip, a cordial, generous man whose henpecking wife never lays off. One day he meets Mary (played by the stunning Ella Raines), a woman much younger than him, but a kindred spirit in a way. Age ain’t nothin’ but a number, aye Philip? He starts taking her out to dinner, daredevil shows, all that stuff. Why Ella Raines would go for this obese man twice her age is baffling – she doesn’t seem to be interested in his wealth. Anyways, when he asks his shrew of a wife for a divorce, she defiantly says “hell no.” Brought to his limit of sanity, he murders her.

An inspector named Huxley (Stanley C. Ridges) suspects the unsuspecting Philip. He reconstructs for Philip how he believes the murder went down. This part is amazing and seeped with those sharp Siodmak shadows I love so much. Huxley never outright accuses Philip and he can’t prove anything, so he just taunts him enough to piss him off, hoping he gets sloppy. This also might be the only scene where Philip shows actual emotion. He’s too damn polite!

Someone who can prove that Philip killed his old lady is his drunkard neighbor Mr. Simmons (Henry Daniell). Walls are thin in the Philip household and Simmons heard the whole argument leading up to the murder and claims to have heard Mrs. Philip cry out before she kicked the bucket. He doesn’t squawk to Huxley though, oh no. Simmons may be a drunk, but he’s an an opportunistic drunk. He attempts to blackmail Philip, who sees no choice but to murder him too.

There’s another wonderfully suspenseful scene after Philip murders (poisons) Simmons. His son and his girlfriend come over right afterwards, unannounced. Philip panics and stashes the corpse under his fucking couch. The young couple comes in, sits on the couch, shit man, it’s tense.

Overall, The Suspect suffers a bit due to its protagonist’s unshakeable geniality. Even when he’s about to kill someone, he barely shows any emotion. There’s nothing for the audience to grab onto in regards to his character, y’know? He’s not exactly cold, he’s just detached. A guy falling in love should be more emotional, I suppose. Charles Laughton is a damn fine actor, don’t get me wrong. I question his approach to this character though.

I wouldn’t consider The Supect to be one of Siodmak’s lesser films. It’s a fun, satisfying period murder tale that would’ve benefited from some more passion.

Robert Siodmak Power Rankings:

rsiodmak_post 1. The Killers
2. Criss Cross
3. The Spiral Staircase
4. Phantom Lady
5. Cry of the City
6. The Dark Mirror
7. The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
8. The File on Thelma Jordon
9. The Suspect
10. Christmas Holiday

Patrick Cooper

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