Friday, 8 November 2019

Noir-vember: Whispering Footsteps (1943)

Look, it's not the best reason to watch a movie, I admit it, but I had a very short amount of time before I was due to get ready for work and this clocks in at about 52 minutes. I decided to roll the dice, allowing me to check out something I hadn't previously heard of, and Whispering Footsteps continues to allow me to believe that there's no such thing as a bad film noir. While this may not be one of the better ones you could choose to watch, it's guaranteed to not outstay its welcome.

John Hubbard plays a bank clerk named Marcus Aurelius Borne AKA Mark. He seems to be quite well-liked and friendly enough. But things soon change when his description matches that of the main suspect in a series of murders. The coincidental timing of the deaths also doesn't help, with every subsequent newsflash proving more and more damning for Mark. There's a detective staying on his tail (played by Cy Kendall), a lot of glances from those who start gossiping, and a couple of ladies happy to help provide him with alibis, for their own reasons.

Directed by Howard Bretherton, a man who churned out about 100 movies between the 1930s and 1940s, his peak working years, this is very competent stuff, and becomes more and more fun as things build towards a finale that keeps you guessing right up until the last minute. The bodies pile up, our lead starts to look more and more suspicious (is he becoming bolder or is his luck just really THAT bad?), and there's an interesting look at how people turn on others, when there's just enough fuel added to their sense of fear.

Written by Dane Lussier and Gertrude Walker, the fact that the plot makes a strength of the bland lead (his blandness helps to maintain the ambiguity of the central concept, while also ensuring that he could always be a potential fit for the killer) is arguably the best thing about it. Mark may not be a character you warm to, or particularly like, but that means nobody will mind the end result, whichever way things go.

While Hubbard is a good fit for the role, the casting around him helps immensely. Kendall is wonderful throughout, always popping up to look at Hubbard and make him nervous. Rita Quigley and Joan Blair are both wonderful as the two women that Hubbard ends up being close to, he has known the former a long time while the latter is new in town, but happy to help him out while it covers up her own behaviour that would be frowned upon at that time. Charles Halton also does well, playing the boss of Hubbard's character, but the less said about the character played by Juanita Quigley, a young girl who shrieks and screams at even the tamest surprise, the better.

Perhaps destined to remain forgotten, due to the lack of star power and the slight nature of the plot, Whispering Footsteps isn't one to go out of your way for, but it's a fun little diversion if you want to watch something and only have a spare hour in your schedule.


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