Review of Cry Wolf

Cry Wolf (1947)
7/10
Flynn trying to punch his way out of his image
12 July 2021
Warning: Spoilers
At this point in his career, Flynn was welcoming any role that punched a hole in his swashbuckler image: he wanted to prove himself as an actor. Here he does a smooth job of menacing Barbara Stanwyck, one of the top actresses in the business, as the moody and mysterious head of a rich family into which Stanwyck has recently married, only to find that her husband has allegedly died. He's also a famous scientist with a mysterious laboratory from which screams can be heard in the night. Yet he seems well-mannered if confrontational in his dealings with Stanwyck and even stars to romance her, although this seems more of a fact-finding mission than a love affair. Stanwyck joins forces with the younger half-sister of Flynn's character, played by Geraldine Brooks and finds the younger half-brother, her husband, played by Richard Basehart, (this was the second film for each). It's interesting that Stanwyck tells Flynn that Basehart married her because he felt that she had the strength to stand up to him and Basehart didn't.

Flynn has difficulty seeming cold and intimidating. Part of this serves the plot, (see below), but it also seems a limitation of the actor. His voice is just too gentle and reassuring and he's prettier than his co-star. Even lighting tricks aren't enough to suggest that Stanwyck is in danger in his presence. This takes the edge off the mystery of the film. The picture seems influenced by "Rebecca" as there's a head of housekeeping that seems very much like Mrs. Danvers, although Stanwyck is a much stronger character than Joan Fontaine's. You wonder how Flynn might have done as Maxim De Winter.

Spoilers: You can't discuss a mystery film without discussing the mystery so I've separated this part of the review from the rest of it. The story ultimately becomes about that old, discredited phenomenon, "inherited insanity", which both Brooks and Basehart suffer from. Flynn has been so strict with them to protect them from society and society from them. Both die in falls related to their condition by the end of the film and Flynn and Stanwyck are free to develop their own relationship, giving the film the requisite happy ending and making Flynn's performance seem more logical in light of the way things turned out. But we aren't supposed to think that is a likely ending through most of the film and yet it doesn't come as a big surprise.
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