Prior to arriving in Hollywood in 1930, William Dieterle worked as an actor and director in Germany during the 1920’s until the deteriorating political climate led him to emigrate. First finding work acting in German language versions of films made by Warner Bros. – including playing Captain Ahab in the German language version of Moby Dick (1930) – he quickly turned to directing full time and had a number of successes with the likes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935), The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), The Life of Emile Zola (1937) and The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939). In the middle of the 1940’s, Hal B. Wallis – who first invited Dieterle to stay in America during his tenure at Warner Bros. – would rekindle his working relationship with the director for nine films at Paramount Pictures, of which The Accused (no relation to the 1988 Jodie Foster film) was among them. Previously released on MOD DVD by Universal (the current rights holder), Kino has licensed the film for its Blu-ray debut.
The Production: 4/5
The life of psychology professor Wilma Tuttle (Loretta Young) is turned upside down when she allows a student of hers to drive her home when she misses her bus. When the student tries to force himself upon her, she fights back and ends up killing him in self-defense. This begins an escalating series of actions as she tries to cover up her actions out of fear. However, as a blossoming romance with the boy’s guardian Warren Ford (Robert Cummings) and an investigation into the death by Lt. Dorgan (Wendell Corey) soon converge on Wilma, she realizes that guilt is the one thing she can’t run away from…
The Accused is a film noir that also melds psychological undercurrents to the proceedings to create an engrossing story. Adapting the June Truesdell novel Be Still, My Love, screenwriter Ketti Frings deftly weaves elements of melodrama as well as noir together to fashion the moody and tense story. The mood is also credibly established by the contributions of cinematographer Milton Krasner, composer Victor Young and production designer Hans Dreier, each of whom make the sunny Southern California locales of the story look more ominous than inviting. And it all comes together under the direction of William Dieterle, who keeps the story moving along and maintaining the tension and suspense at a smooth clip. With a solid blend of noir and melodrama while also making use of psychology, The Accused is a neat, yet underrated little thriller that keeps its audience on the edge of their seat until the climax, which the film refuses to provide a concrete solution to the story (rather fitting given its complex twists and turns).
In the leading role, and still relatively fresh off of her Oscar-winning performance in The Farmer’s Daughter (1947), Loretta Young exhibits both intelligence and vulnerability in her performance as Wilma; she would return to noir territory a few years later with Cause for Alarm! (1951). As the unsuspecting guardian, Bob Cummings is likeable as Warren Ford; he’s given one of his better screen roles here since his performance in Alfred Hitchcock’s Saboteur (1942). Wendell Corey – in a complete role reversal from his on-screen debut in Desert Fury (1947) – is a credibly cynical detective investigating the case while Douglas Dick is appropriately oily as the student whose advances ends with his death when he pushes too far. Rounding out the cast here are Sam Jaffe as the forensic scientist Dr. Romley, Suzanne Dalbert as the troubled foreign exchange student Susan Duval, Sara Allgood as Wilma’s landlady Mrs. Conner, George Spaulding as the school’s dean of students, Ann Doran as a nurse, “Queen of the Extras” Bess Flowers in an uncredited bit as a court deputy and Henry Travers (Clarence the Angel himself) in an uncredited – and penultimate – appearance as the assistant to Dr. Romley.
3D Rating: NA
The film is presented in its original 1:37:1 aspect ratio for this release. Film grain is organic with fine details and gray scale faithfully represented; there are scratches, vertical lines, dirt and tears present, but nothing that’s too distracting. Overall, this is likely the best the movie will ever look on home video and a slight improvement over the previous MOD DVD.
The film’s original mono soundtrack is presented on a DTS-HD Master Audio track for this release. Dialogue is strong and clear, with the sound mix and Victor Young’s score also faithfully represented as well; there’s little to no instances of issues like distortion, crackling, popping or hissing present here. This is likely the best the movie will ever sound on home video and is an improvement over the previous MOD DVD.
Special Features: 3/5
Commentary by film historian Eddy Von Mueller – Recorded for this release, Von Mueller goes over the production details while also discussing how the film was shaped by the time it was made in.
Theatrical Trailer (2:27)
Garnering solid notices from the critics during its initial run, The Accused has largely slipped through the cracks over the years but is still a solid and well done noir thriller. Kino’s Blu-ray release should help introduce new audiences to this hidden gem of a movie, with a serviceable yet solid HD transfer and a very good commentary track as a special feature. Highly recommended and worth upgrading from the Universal Vault Series MOD DVD release.
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