Whirlpool Otto Preminger

The very definition of "not half bad," this modest but well-handled thriller is solid enough to make you forget its many weaknesses. Gene Tierney stars as the kleptomaniac wife of psychologist Richard Conte. Saved from arrest by hypnotist Jose Ferrer, she allows him to mesmerise her into murdering one of her husband's patients. Conte is convinced of her innocence, but he has a tough time convincing the police — as the hypnotist has made off with the incriminating recordings, there's nothing to connect him to the crime. The film starts off well and gets increasingly ridiculous, with Ferrer hypnotising himself out of a hospital bed, but the emotional underpinnings and smashing turns by the lead and the villain make it worth the rental any night of the week. True, it stumbles all over itself in developing its theme — it's a pro-psychiatry movie that strangely ascribes magical powers to hypnotism and makes Ferrer way more fun than Conte — but it's still got some clever twists and nice effects that make it all go down easy. Tierney is the absolute right choice for the beleaguered patsy and Ferrer is a hoot as the pompous, well-educated villain, walking off with all of his scenes, making you want to fall under his spell. And the film is actually far more entertaining than the stiff and overrated Laura, which made director Otto Preminger's reputation. The only extras are a commentary by critic Richard Schickel, which is one part useful background, one part celebrity trivia and one part obvious recounting of plot, and the trailer. (Fox)