Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Warner Archive Grab Bag - POSSESSED on Blu-ray ""

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Warner Archive Grab Bag - POSSESSED on Blu-ray

POSSESSED (1947; Curtis Bernhardt)
One of the tricky things about relationships is the quantifying of one person's affections versus another's. I'm sure that the reason a lot of them end in tears is because one person's feelings are further along than the other's. If one feels they care more for than another, then things can swing wildly out of balance. This kind of thing can happen to anyone, even Joan Crawford. In this case, her obsession with a strapping structural engineer (played by Van Heflin) leads to some big problems. 
This movie begins with a cool noir trope of a character wandering about the city (in this case Los Angeles) in a veritable state of amnesia. As she is taken in at a hospital and examined and interrogated by a doctor in the psychology ward, we see the beginnings of how she got ended up 
POSSESSED is an enjoyable watch for a variety of reasons. First off, Van Heflin is truly a dick in a somewhat subtle but very chauvinistic way. You just can't help but be irritated by the guy he plays here (though he is able to humanize his character a bit before it's all said and done). What's interesting though is that as much as you side with her, Joan Crawford is unhinged for sure. It really complicates the "who's the villain?" Of the story in an interesting way. In fact, those interested in seeing the beginnings of her evolution from serious acting roles like in MILDRED PIERCE to more over the top stuff like STRAIT-JACKET need look no further than this film. Crawford's psychosis is not played for camp here, you can nonetheless see her starting throwing caution the the wind a little but more in terms of her commitment to this rather unstable character. She's nutty, but in a much much less in-your-face kinda way. The film handles her craziness well too in that it shows things from her point of view. We see hallucinations, one of them like a dreadful flash-forward and it all helps to make Crawford feel more grounded, more sympathetic. Joan Crawford's face is wonderfully conducive to expressing insanity. She uses her eyes especially well, making them wide and possessed of pure terror is one of her fortes. That terror, the helplessness of it, makes her a perfect candidate for noir. Crawford can bring a deep emotional resonance to her paranoia and anger. Her character's manic emotional swings are not laughable, but rather quite sad and awkward in a real way that made me squirm (in an engaged, good way).

Special Features:
This Warner Archive Blu-ray features a few nice supplements:
-an Audio Commentary by Dr. Drew Casper. This track is very much an academic-type deal and a wall-to-wall information session that is a nice compliment to the movie.
-"POSSESSED: THE QUINTESSENTIAL FILM NOIR" (10 mins) - A short featurette containing interviews Eddie Muller, Dr. Drew Casper, Glenn Erickson, & James Ursini wherein they discuss film noir generally and then specifically as it's themes and archetypes apply to POSSESSED and Joan Crawford.

Bonus:
An Audio interview with Joan Crawford from around the time POSSESSED came out:

An excerpt from Joan Crawford's first TV Interview, 1956:



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