Undercurrent (1946)

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Directed by Vincente Minnelli
Written by Thelma Strabel and Edward Chodorov
1946/USA
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
First viewing/Netflix rental

 

Ann Hamilton: If I relax, I’ll drop dead.

Imagine a universe where Robert Mitchum and Katharine Hepburn appear together in a film noir directed by Vincente Minnelli.  Sound intriguing?  Unfortunately, all the money, gloss, and star power at MGM’s disposal could not save the train wreck of the story that surrounds this effort.

Confirmed spinster Ann Hamilton (Katharine Hepburn) changes her mind when dashing inventor Alan Garroway (Robert Taylor) comes calling on her scientist father (Edmund Gwenn) and the two soon marry.  Ann is practically giddy with love for the handsome Alan and he responds by dressing her to wow his society friends.  Before too long, some cracks begin to appear in Alan’s facade, however.  He appears to be pathologically jealous of his long-lost brother Michael.  When Ann and Alan visit Alan’s old home in Virginia, Ann has plenty of innocent questions about the family.  He reacts to all of these with cold fury at her “prying”.  She also catches him in a lie about his mother.

tumblr_lmvjf9PuAx1qg1naao1_1280Ann being Ann, she cannot resist playing detective.  When Alan leaves her on her own in San Francisco she looks up one of his old friends (Jayne Meadows).  The woman believes that Michael may be dead.  Then Ann pays a visit to Alan’s California ranch and starts pumping the caretaker (Robert Mitchum) for info.  This infuriates Alan to the extent that Ann begins to believe the woman’s story and eventually to fear for her own life.

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There is nothing wrong with this movie that a better story and script could not fix. The movie took much too long to get where it was going and I found the Hepburn character’s motivation simply incredible.  The movie also could not quite figure out where it stood on Alan, playing more on Taylor’s good looks than his menace until the final minutes.  This was billed as a film noir in The Film Noir Guide but it would better be described as a romance/thriller/melodrama, unfortunately lacking in thrills for this viewer.

Trailer (spoiler)

 

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