One of the undisputed queens of film noir Barbara Stanwyck once again takes matters into her own hands as a woman willing to do anything to get what she wants in Gerd Oswald’s Crime of Passion, an unprepossessing film noir with a first-rate cast.
The Production: 3.5/5
One of the undisputed queens of film noir Barbara Stanwyck once again takes matters into her own hands as a woman willing to do anything to get what she wants in Gerd Oswald’s Crime of Passion, an unprepossessing film noir with a first-rate cast. While only a better-than-average film rather than a great one, Crime of Passion contains another essential Stanwyck performance towering above all around her in a role that seems tailor-made for her talents.
Intrepid, underappreciated San Francisco newspaperwoman Kathy Ferguson (Barbara Stanwyck) is a key force in the solution of a case for visiting Los Angeles police detectives Charlie Alidos (Royal Dano) and Bill Doyle (Sterling Hayden). Alidos has no use for a working woman, but Doyle is very impressed with Kathy’s wily nature and the two quickly fall in love and marry. Kathy intends to be a dutiful wife to her hard-working husband, but it isn’t long before the innocuous existence of a police wife and the multitudes of time spent alone bore her completely, and she begins to look for ways to occupy her time. Primary in her mind is finding a way to help her content and non-assertive husband advance up the promotion ladder. To do that, she must ingratiate herself and her husband into the lives of his boss Inspector Tony Pope (Raymond Burr) and his wife Alice (Fay Wray) while at the same time finding ways to sabotage their already strong friendship with Pope’s favorite Charlie Alidos and his social climbing wife Sara (Virginia Grey). Once Kathy and Tony become emotionally involved, things get very sticky very fast.
It would have been nice if Jo Eisinger’s story and screenplay had given us an even clearer understanding of Kathy Ferguson’s aggressive impatience for respect and acknowledgement of her talents and abilities. It also seems odd that even in the first full flush of love she abandons all of her own ambitions and so eagerly assumes she’ll be content being a housewife. (Clearly in this earlier era, working women were the exception rather than the rule, but Kathy is no youngster floating on dreams of domestic bliss. From the beginning she shows unquenchable drive.) Still, director Gerd Oswald very astutely shows us Kathy’s agonizingly mounting dismay in a rapid-paced montage of talking heads at a dinner party with the airheaded wives talking about nothing of consequence and the men playing poker in another room relishing their time away from their wives’ aimless chatter. Kathy’s machinations to gain entry into the rarefied heights of the Pope’s social circle are entertaining to watch (but in this 86-minute melodrama, there isn’t time to develop these plans further), but things happen so quickly and sour so fast that it seems the writing is almost too terse for complete satisfaction.
Barbara Stanwyck is almost the whole show here playing a woman of such extreme emotions and passions. She can toss off a withering barb with the greatest of ease and yet also fully convince us of the deep emotions she feels at any given moment (when she commits murder late in the movie, it’s almost with resignation rather than out-of-control rage, a deliciously original acting choice). Raymond Burr also impresses as Tony Doyle, almost ruthlessly charming in some great scenes he shares with Stanwyck, abetted by the intelligence he could always display on screen when given a chance. Sterling Hayden does his usual solid job, never showy but always dependable. Royal Dano and Virginia Grey as the Alidoses make excellent counterpoints to the Doyles, he the strong but silent type and she with an obnoxious, calculating superiority around their mutual friends. Fay Wray has some nice moments as Alice Pope though her role has far less to do than that of her husband. It’s nice to see future star Stuart Whitman in a small role as a ballistics lab expert who helps Bill Doyle unmask the killer in the final scenes of the movie.
3D Rating: NA
The film is framed properly at its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good throughout the presentation, and even slightly softened close-ups of the female stars reveal some details in facial features and hair. The grayscale offers very crisp whites but black levels that are a couple of shades from inky black. The image is surprisingly clean throughout with no age-related scuffs, scratches, or excessive dirt to mar the visual presentation. The movie has been divided into 21 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix is what one would expect for a fairly low budget independent movie of the 1950s. Dialogue has been professionally recorded and has been mixed along with the music and effects. The music of Paul Dunlap and the atmospheric effects have all been combined with surety for a mostly solid presentation. There are some muffled pops later in the film, but most of the soundtrack is free of age-related artifacts.
Special Features: 0/5
There are no bonus features on this disc.
Presented on TCM’s Noir Alley several months ago, Crimes of Passion looks even sharper and more solid in this Classic Flix Blu-ray presentation. It’s an entertaining drama of the 1950s with outstanding performances especially from leading lady Barbara Stanwyck and from Raymond Burr a mere few months before he segued into television work for the next decade as Perry Mason.
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