Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
Director: Otto Preminger
based on the novel of Vera Caspary
Music: David Raksin
Cinematography: Joseph LaShelle
Laura Hunt (Tierney), a young entrepreneur in advertisement business, is shot dead in her apartment one night, the case is investigated by a hard-boiled detective Mark McPherson (Andrews). For the season that the opening credits only introduce 5 names, save Tierney and Andrews, the other three naturally becomes prime suspects, they are Laura’s long-time patron Waldo Lydecker (Webb), her scalawag fiancé Shelby Carpenter (Price), whom she supposedly would marry in one week, and her auntie Ann Treadwell (Anderson).
While the film is running for a mere 88 minutes, this whodunit doesn’t waste any time to probe into each suspect’s possible motive, all of them has a disreputable side, while Laura, through Waldo’s wistful recollection, is the one who is impeccable, then what has she done to deserve a buckshot in the face? After the preliminary procedures, Shelby’s suspicion arises, he is a ne’er-do-well philanderer, and Ann’s kept man. But an ensuing turn of event impels the whole case into a more complex misery since it is not what we conceive at all, when the real identity of the victim is revealed, the new suspect shifts to Laura herself. Only when McPherson locates the whereabout of the murder weapon on a hunch, the killer’s real identity surfaces and another attempt of murder is within the close range. By the way, Webb is rewarded with an Oscar nomination (the first of a total three), as a late bloomer on the silver screen at the age of 55, and it is his first screen appearance since 1925, (as an open homosexual, it is director Preminger’s insistence secures him this classic role), his cynic and urbane presentation of a man who owns everything in life but the woman he desires due to his senility, comes incredibly pathetic.
It is beyond question that LAURA is Gene Tierney’s most memorable role in her not-so-glorious career, however, it is hard to not notice that her acting here sometimes comes close to an impression of blankness, she showcases her conventional beauty, but it is not a film-noir about femme fatale, she never register any evidence of malice and not enough enigma either, maybe because her personal life is in a distress then (just after she delivered a baby girl who is mentally retarded).
This is my first Dana Andrews picture, he is a terse, no-bullshiting detective at the top of his game, only knows dames and dolls from the opposite sex, until he sees Laura’s portrait, how dreadful is that he falls in love with a corpse, thankfully the movie doesn’t go toward that direction. Vincent Price at his early age of 33, forcibly squeezes a certain temperament of a towering tomboy, while Dame Judith Anderson, retreats on the sidelines most of the time, her adeptness only slightly pays off during her tête-à-tête scenes with Laura.
Otto Preminger’s LAURA is the paragon among the film-noir crop, a dedicative alignment of dazzling chiaroscuro and a white-knuckle storytelling with its timeless LAURA THEME composed by David Raksin, it is the whole package for aficionados.