Sunday, December 11, 2011
House of Strangers (3 stars)
House of Strangers, from 1949, is a film noir/drama directed by Joseph Mankiewicz and starring Edward G. Robinson, Richard Conte, and my #2 gal, Susan Hayward. I totally love Miss Hayward and think she was a completely sensational actress, so anytime I see her name among a cast, I make it a point to watch that film. Therefore, she was the draw here for me, and, I must say, neither she nor the movie disappointed. Sometimes, it's kind of hard for me to determine if it's 3 or 4 stars, or 4 or 5 stars, so, while I'm giving this film 3 stars, it could possibly garner 4. (I don't really see House of Strangers as noir, but it's classified that way on a couple of sites.)
The movie, mostly told in flashback through the eyes of Max Monetti (Richard Conte) is the story of the very dysfunctional Monetti family. The family patriarch is Gino (Edward G. Robinson), who has made it big since immigrating from Italy earlier in the century. His days living in a one-room house on the backside of a barber shop finally behind him, Gino now owns his own bank and lives in a mansion. His family consists of a wife and four adult sons...Joseph, Max, Tony, and Pietro.
Through both ignorance and stubbornness, Gino ran his bank his way. Instead of adhering to regulations, he loaned money how he chose to; as a result, an audit of his books indicated that he was guilty of mis-application of funds. When he is indicted, only son Max is willing to stand with him. Because Gino had been a miserable father, who ridiculed his sons and failed to love them unconditionally, the other three sons detest him. Only Max is willing to take the fall for him, which he does, and he ends up serving a seven-year prison sentence. By the end of his sentence, Max has worked up an intense hatred for his brothers.
As the film begins, an angry and bitter Max, now a free man, returns to New York and the family home. Determined to exact revenge on his brothers, he confronts them. Though his girlfriend, Irene (Susan Hayward), loves him and begs him to forget the past and to move into the future, Max is unwilling to drop the vendetta. He is determined to make his three brothers pay for the seven years he lost. Accusing them of abandoning their father and playing a part in sending him to prison, Max vows revenge.
Will Max be able to let go of his hatred and his desire for revenge? Will he be able to stop the cycle of dysfunction in the family? Will he be able to accept and return Irene's love? Those are the questions that play out in this extremely well-acted film.
The acting in this movie was sensational. Yes, I got the film for Susan Hayward, and she gave her usual wonderful performance; however, Edward G. Robinson and Richard Conte were the real stars of the film. Eddie G. was spectacular, I thought...even down to the Italian accent. Richard Conte was wonderful as well. I've seen him in several movies, and of those, I think this is his absolute best performance. While none of the characters is overly loveable---and Robinson's character is downright unlikeable---you can't help rooting for Conte's and Hayward's characters...flaws and all.
As I said, I'm not exactly sure if I liked this film or really liked it; I guess I'm somewhere in the middle. Depending on my mood, it's either 3 stars or 4 stars. The movie is out on DVD, so it should be pretty easy to track down. It's also available on Net Flix instant viewing, plus Fox Movie Channel airs it fairly regularly.