Among the Living, 1941, Stuart Heisler (Foto: Filmarchiv Austria)

Double Feature

Among the Living (1941)

Studio: Paramount; Regie: Stuart Heisler; Drehbuch: Lester Cole, Garrett Fort, Brian Marlow; Kamera: Theodor Sparkuhl; Musik: Gerard Carbonara; Darsteller: Albert Dekker, Susan Hayward, Harry Carey, Frances Farmer, Gordon Jones, Jean Phillips, Ernest Whitman. 16mm (von 35mm), sw, 67 min*

Blind Alley (1939)

Studio: Columbia; Regie: Charles Vidor; Drehbuch: Philip MacDonald, Michael Blankfort, Albert Duffy, Lewis Meltzer nach dem Theaterstück von James Warwick; Kamera: Lucien Ballard; Musik: George Parrish; Darsteller: Chester Morris, Ralph Bellamy, Ann Dvorak, Joan Perry, Melville Cooper, Rose Stradner, John Eldredge. 35mm, sw, 68 min
Stuart Heisler gehört zu den großen Unterschätzten Hollywoods, eine Neubewertung wäre längst angebracht. Sein Southern-Gothic-Zwillings-Thriller Among the Living beeindruckt durch uneitle inszenatorische Eleganz: Durch ein eisernes Tor beobachtet die Bevölkerung das Begräbnis eines Patriarchen, sein nervenkranker Sohn wird durch den Garten geschleift, um die properen Beerdigungsgäste nicht in Verlegenheit zu bringen. Das Anwesen wird in ein Labyrinth aus Schatten verwandelt. Der Film endet mit einer geschickten Hommage an Fritz Langs M, nachdem Heisler zuvor bereits mit Intelligenz und Witz Verweise auf James Whales Frankenstein eingeflochten hat. In Blind Alley sucht ein psychotischer Killer (Chester Morris Sterne) Unterschlupf im Landsitz eines Psychiaters (Ralph Bellamy), der versucht, den neuen "Klienten" zu heilen. Als Noir-Vorläufer markiert dieses B-Picture den Übergang vom klassischen Gangsterfilm der 1930er Jahre hin zu den psychologisch geprägten Exponaten des Genres. Regisseur Charles Vidor sicherte sich sieben Jahre später mit Gilda bleibenden Nachruhm. Bemerkenswert sind die Traumsequenzen des Kameramannes Lucien Ballard, die Hitchcocks Spellbound vorwegnehmen. (O. M./H. G.)
*Print courtesy of Harvard Film Archive

Aus dem Katalog zur Retrospektive:

Among the Living is a prime piece of Southern Gothic about twins, one who left town long ago, returning only for their father's funeral, while the other was secretly locked away in the family mansion after being driven mad by their mother's screams for help. The latter will soon walk among the people of his town, a creature too sensitive for a world where violence seems second nature, and a mob the preferred way of community. One can only marvel at Stuart Heisler's genius. How elegantly he introduces a theme that would come to dominate his oeuvre, as evidenced by eg. The Biscuit Eater (1940), The Negro Soldier (1944) or Storm Warning (1951): that of worlds divided (townsfolk having to watch the funeral through an iron-wrought gate; the mad son being shushed away into the mansion's vast garden so as to not embarrass the Decent People congregated for the burial); the way the estate is turned into a maze of shadows more than light; his interest in women that will later carry masterpieces like Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman (1947) or The Star (1952); all ending with a deft tribute to Fritz Lang's M after having taken a clue or two before from James Whale's Frankenstein (both 1931), with sharp intelligence and wit. (Olaf Möller)

Chiselled tough guy Chester Morris stars in Blind Alley as a psychotic killer who hides out in a lakeside weekend home only to be locked in an extended fire-side showdown with its owner, Ralph Bellamy's tweedy psychoanalyst who determines to cure the criminal using the verbal tools of his prolix trade. A seminal proto-noir, Blind Alley marks an important transition between the classic gangster portrait films of the 1930s and the psychoanalytically informed explorations of criminality that would flourish through the end of the studio-era. Indeed, the film sets into place dominant noir archetypes of psychotic criminality, analyst investigators and repressed dream/flashbacks as riddles charged with crucial meaning. Despite the slightly starchy theatricality of its performances, Blind Alley is energized by the stylized direction of "the other Vidor", Hungarian émigré Charles Vidor, whose prolific years in B-pictures have long been overshadowed by his other Freudian noir classic Gilda. Lucien Ballard's apprenticeship as cinematographer for Josef von Sternberg clearly shaped the remarkable dream sequences that further underscore the film's place as an obscure anticipation of Hitchcock's Spellbound. (Haden Guest)

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