A small-time lawyer (Edmond O’Brien, D.O.A.) agrees to work as a bodyguard for a wealthy businessman (Vincent Price, House of Wax). As soon as he starts his new job, the cocky attorney finds himself trapped in a huge web of deceit and lies.
Reaction & Thoughts:
“France fell in eighteen days, and you’re not as tough as France.”
Directed by Michael Gordon (Cyrano de Bergerac and Pillow Talk) from a script by William Bowers (The Gunfighter) and Bertram Millhauser (Tokyo Joe), The Web sports all the earmarks of an enjoyable film noir.
This is a thriller in the manner of small-budget noirs like Detour, Too Late for Tears and The Big Combo. The chiaroscuro photography, the stumped anti-hero, the duplicitous characters, everything you expect from the subgenre is here in spades.
The salty dialogue was music to the ears. Sometimes I felt like I was watching something concocted by pulp-fiction stalwarts Raymond Chandler, James M. Cain or Jim Thompson. The numerous exchanges between Edmond O’Brien and Ella Raines (Phantom Lady) (she plays a no-nonsense secretary) are both clever and hilarious.
Only the hokey ending disappointed me. The old Production Code demanded that bad people had to pay for their crimes, and the film struggles to find an ending that meets the code’s rigid guidelines. The last scenes are pretty ridiculous.
The excellent work by the actors helps get some of the sting out of a sloppy finale. O’Brien is one of my favorite “noir actors.” He made all kinds of movies, but I will always see O’Brien as the quintessential noir anti-hero. Needless to say, he is perfect as the lawyer who bites off more than he can chew. Raines is also great as a femme fatale. She isn’t exactly a “fallen angel” but she is tough, mouthy and delightfully sardonic. Raines belongs in the company of Joan Bennett, Claire Trevor, Lizabeth Scott and Jane Greer, all great femme fatales! William Bendix (Lifeboat) is also good as Lt. Damico.
Despite exceptionally good work by O’Brien, Raines and Bendix, Vincent Price steals the movie from his co-stars. He plays one of those sinister urbane villains you love-to-hate — Price’s sophisticated and soft-spoken sociopath is compelling and irresistible.
The Web was one of the first films Price made after his contract with Fox expired. It’s an accomplished performance in a nifty thriller. Although he is still years away from the iconic horror films that made him one of cinema’s best known actors, you can see here the kind of charming villainy that makes his work in the horror genre so much fun.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
The Web isn’t as well-known as other film noirs, but it’s the kind of movie that you will feel compelled to revisit once in a while. The cast is fantastic and director Gordon (grandfather of actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Brick and Inception) brings all the elements together. Above all, if you love actor Vincent Price, you don’t want to miss his scene-stealing performance. B&W, 87 minutes, Not Rated.