This Woman Is Dangerous, 1952. 7/10

Joan Crawford stars in a somewhat disjointed mix of film-noir and romantic melodrama. The love triangle sets up with Crawford’s Beth Austin, nice-guy Doctor Ben Halleck (Dennis Morgan), and bad guy Matt Jackson (David Brian). The other gangsters include Matt’s brother Will (Philip Carey), and his wife Ann (Mari Aldon).

Things start off in swanky-sleaze land: a bar, where we see Matt push Ann around until Beth shows up, then onto an illegal casino. Beth gets let off the hook when the casino’s raided. Funny thing is, that’s because the ‘cops’ are Matt and Will, who empty the safe for “evidence.”

Some there’s another nice touch: Matt approaches a phone booth in a trailer park; we see him from what appears to be a gunman’s viewpoint. The assassin turns out to be a kid with a very realistic cap pistol (that’s how they made ’em then).

Matt calls Beth, who’s holing up New Orleans. She nonetheless plans to get with the ocular specialist (Doc Halleck) in Indianapolis. But first back to the trailer park, where the boys are planning the next job, a Baton Rouge thing. I really can’t figure out why Ann acts like a servant to the other three.

Anyway, Beth and Matt squabble about heist jobs, fidelity, etc. Beth: “Let’s be smart and quit while we’re ahead” Sounds reasonable. But Matt has got on her wavelength “As long as I have you, I’m always ahead.”

The FBI guys get the casino hotshots to finger Beth; after all, she’d got them to open the safe. Back to Beth. Wow, Halleck has a whole clinic. The doc’s deal is restoring Beth’s sight; she becomes a pet patient, then a lover, if not a surrogate mother for his little girl (mom has passed on). Still, all is not that rosy for them: “It isn’t that simple!” she insists, as he doesn’t know about her other life. Meanwhile, Beth’s being tailed by a detective, Joe Grossland (Ian McDonald). Soon, Ben’s brought up to speed by Franklin (Richard Webb), an FBI agent.

To the cops, Beth’s obvious motive is using Ben to get away from the Jacksons and the cops. The Jacksons meanwhile, have some catchng up to do too: “Can she see?” says Ann, “Yeah,” replies Will, laconically, “so can the FBI.” There’s nothing but tension between the brothers, Ann has to shoot an ashtray to keep them from killing each other.

Back to Beth and the doc, on a house call. Man, now he’s got to operate on a kid on the spot; he dispatches her on a meaningless errand so she won’t see the gross stuff. Problem is, that gives her an opportunity to warn ‘the boys’ that the screws are closing in. She gets back to the surgery site in time to assist. I don’t see why this scene is necessary, other than to get Beth out of the limelight for a while. It just cements the already obvious fact that Ben is a bona-fide do-gooder.

But, at least, Ben tells her he knows all about her “Let the law take care of Matt.” She begs to differ “I’m going back to Matt ’cause that’s what I want to do!” Yeah, ok, but she’s not exactly welcome back at the Jackson’s hideout. Both Ann and Beth want to split–Matt’s already gone. On the road, she stops to call Ben, but Will’s lurking nearby, and stops her.

Grossland gets roughed up by Matt, and then rubbed out, as the private eye was trying to call Franklin. Matt scurries over to the hospital, now hunting Ben. A very noirish bit with Matt skulking around the almost deserted clinic, obviously carrying a gun. Ben’s nurse, having already met Franklin, gets suspicious and manages to call him.

But Matt trails Ben into surgery, finding an observation area above the surgical team. This is an original device; talk about looking down on your victim (it’s made more odd by the fact that the surgical gear makes the team indistinguishable, so which one is Halleck?). Out on the street Ann, Will, and Beth go to collect Matt, but they only find out that Grossland’s dead.

With nice timing, the criminaks arrive at the hospital just ahead of the cops. Things really pick up for a rat-a-tat-tat denouement. Will gets it in the elevator as the cops close in; Beth makes it to the observation area, just in time to deflect Matt’s gun, as he’s drawn a bead on Ben (the doc nobly identified himself to avoid a mass slaughter). Very strangely, Matt’s so upset that he shoots Beth.

Needless to say, he’s soon blown away by the now-swarming police. Nothing’s ever completely over, though, as we last see a recuperating Beth comforted by Ben. Apparently, the fact that she’s got a rap sheet taller than a skyscraper isn’t that big of a deal right now.

Well, this is entertaining stuff. Crawford’s performance is quite good, but she’s a couple of layers too hard to make a convincing mate for the very sensible Ben. On the other hand, she hardly fits in with Matt either. Some of the best scenes are the verbal and physical brawls between the brothers. As noted, Ann doesn’t seem to fit in with these two sociopaths.

The main problem with This Woman Is Dangerous is that the blindness subplot, although it serves to bring Beth and Ben together, really has nothing to do with the main crime-ring plot. It’s one thing to have a fish-out-of-water type (Ben) gets mixed up with clowns from the wrong side of town, but do we really need the extrinsic device of Beth’s blindness to gobble up time with all its attendant scenes?

Why couldn’t Ben be an old flame that she runs into again, while she’s trying to go legit? Maybe a relative of Ann’s…As it is, despite the gun play and plenty of other action, the movie kind of crawls between the gangbuster beginning and ending.

Having said all that, though, there’s plenty of tightly-drawn and mesmerising bits strewn throughout. The ending sequence in particular is very appealing.

Farmermouse really dug the Jackson’s white Lincoln convertible, so he’ll have a couple of drinks in the trailer. No law against critters riding and drinking back there. 7/10.

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