Shabby-looking Joe Morgan is offered a way out of skid row when he lands a job as a peanut seller at an ice-skating show. He quickly rises to become the righthand man of impresario Frank Leonard and begins an affair with Frank’s wife, Roberta, the star of the revue. Joe’s involvement with the couple leads to an even quicker reversal of his fortune. Written by Philip Yordan, Suspense has been described as an imaginative riff on Gilda. The films were released only two months apart, so there could be no possibility of influence. Yet, if compared, Tuttle’s work can be seen to be tapping into the darker aspects of his lead character – who, unlike Glenn Ford in Gilda, starts out as a sympathetic bum and ends as a distraught murderer. There is a similar erotic, even voyeuristic air; Frank’s window onto the ice rink is almost like a movie screen, through which he watches his wife’s sensual routines. Performed by English Olympic figure skater Belita, the dancing often becomes orgiastic (the Italian title of the film was Orgasmo), reaching its climax with turns executed at such a speed that the performer’s face can no longer be discerned – transforming her into a statuesque body of desire. Advertised as the King Brothers’ “first million dollar picture”, the film’s hefty budget is reflected less in the choice of actors than it is in the visual quality of the film, especially the impressive set design by Frank Paul Sylos, who was well acquainted with European modernist painting. (Los Angeles’s Pan Pacific Auditorium, with the help of a matte shot, serves as the location for the ice rink). The film plays on cinematic perception, opening with a scene of a woman shooting a man in cold blood, only to reveal later that it has been an illusion, breaking with the conventions of the shot/reverse-shot. The viewer is continually deceived in this way, creating a sense of uncertainty – a tension between what is shown and what is withheld. We see none of the deaths that occur in the film, except maybe the last. Tuttle establishes a world that is continually threatened by what is outside the frame, sustaining a sense of malaise.
Cast and Credits
Sog., Scen.: Philip Yordan. F.: Karl Struss. M.: Richard V. Heermance. Scgf.: Frank Paul Sylos. Mus.: Daniele Amfitheatrof. Int.: Barry Sullivan (Joe Morgan), Belita (Roberta Elva), Albert Dekker (Frank Leonard), Bonita Granville (Ronnie), Eugene Pallette (Harry Wheeler), George E. Stone (Max), Edit Angold (Nora), Leon Belasco (Pierre Yasha). Prod.: Frank King, Maurice King for King Brothers Productions. DCP
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