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Sunday 25 November 2007

Please Believe Me (1950) Norman Taurog

Val Lewton is a name known to any connoisseur of classic horror films. He produced 14 films all told, including such classics as Cat People, I Walked with a Zombie and Bedlam. My favourite is The Leopard Man which to my mind doesn't receive the credit it's due. However only 9 of the 14 were horror films and the other five are a little hard to track down. This is the third of the five that I've found, following the decent Mademoiselle Fifi and the dire Youth Runs Wild. Now I only have My Own True Love and Apache Drums to locate.

Some old American GI called Hank dies and leaves his 50,000 acre ranch in Texas to an English lady who treated him with kindness during the war. She's Alison Kirbe, she's played by Deborah Kerr and she heads off to the States to visit her new property, which Hank has described in such glowing terms. He apparently never looked north because it's the only direction he could see land he didn't own. What it really adds up to is a large chunk of desert with a broken down shack on it, but it doesn't stop Kirbe from falling prey to a debt ridden conman who thinks it's as valuable as she does and needs to marry a rich woman to pay back his gambling debts.

He's not the only man on the boat as there are a whole slew of them all getting caught up in the shenanigans. Terence Keath, the conman, is backed up by Vincent Maran, played by James Whitmire who looks uncannily like Spencer Tracy. Keath himself is played by Robert Walker who always looks to me like Robert Vaughn. There's also Peter Lawford as a multimillionaire called Jeremy Tayler and his lawyer friend Matthew Kinston, played by Mark Stevens. All of them are wolves and it complicates the plot nicely. Unfortunately the humour is more than a little lacking, so most of the shipboard sequences don't work at all.

At least there's Ian Wolfe, if only briefly; Spring Byington being wonderfully bitchy; and the always somehow sleazy J Carrol Naish. He's Lucky Reilly, the man unwittingly providing a lot of the finance for the con. It's his money that Keath is spending on Alison, with the full intention of marrying her, acquiring her inheritance and paying Reilly back. This complexity is the good side of the plot, but it does flounder and veer all over the place attempting to stay good and mostly it fails. It could have been so much more than it was.

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