The House on Telegraph Hill Robert Wise

The House on Telegraph Hill is a better script than a movie, a series of suggestive and sinister conceits let down by bland and indifferent direction. Valentina Cortese stars as a Polish woman displaced by WWII who assumes the identity of a dead woman in order to get passage to America. Soon, she's mothering someone else's son and romancing the boy's guardian (Richard Basehart), but why does the housekeeper hate her? And who cut her brakes one near-fatal day? Despite a couple of resonances swiped from Rebecca, the script is so overflowing with dank, guilt-ridden undertones that it should have been a masterpiece. Alas, director Robert Wise is so literal minded that he can't bring the goodies to the surface. There's an early scene in what I think is supposed to be Belsen that's glaringly, pathetically fake, and it doesn't improve from there. Though the material is constantly cuing you to terrible things, Wise simply rattles off the facts instead of bringing out the emotional core. The performers do what they can, but there's no menace to the film: Cortese's feelings of guilt are more stated than demonstrated, and the whole displaced person angle is barely explored. Despite the fact that the film is dealing with some painful and volatile recent history, it's content to tell a story instead of comment on its implications, and though it passes the time, it's not likely to make a dent on your consciousness. The Fox Film Noir title includes a commentary by expert Eddie Muller that discusses the film's noir/"woman in peril" hybrid, and a picture gallery. (Fox)