Cinema Slueth – Jeopardy

For review of all movies starring Barbara Stanwyck, go here.

Stars: 5 / 5

Recommendation:  A psychological thriller by a master craftsman, with equally talented actors giving the story more life making the horror all believable.

Prologue: This series follows movies of Barbara Stanwyck. I have gained a certain fascination for her as she reminds me so much of one my favorite yester year Hindi Indian language actress Nutan. Here is my review of her next film.

Jeopardy is a 1953 American crime drama film directed by John Sturges and produced by Sol Baer Fielding. The film has Barbara Stanwyck, Barry Sullivan and Ralph Meeker in the lead cast. It was based on a 22-minute radio play “A Question of Time” written by Maurice Zimm.  Released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) with screenplay by Amelio “Mel” Dinelli.

Helen and Doug Stilwin (portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan respectively) visit a remote beach in Baja California in Mexico with their young son Bobby (portrayed by Lee Aaker). When Doug gets stuck under a rotting jetty, Helen drives to old gas station for help. Inadvertently she picks up Lawson (portrayed by Ralph Meeker), an escaped convict. The perils in their lives compound the minute Lawson comes to their aid.

This was Barbara Stanwyck’s first film after taking a year off from her screen career. She is as pretty set as a housewife and also as a warrior when it comes to saving her husband and dealing with a convict; and a well-rounded handyman with ideas of survival as needed.

The Stilwins form a pretty all-American family, very picturesque. Barry Sullivan as Doug Stilwin certainly makes a compelling dad who runs to the aid of his kid in need and also puts a brave face when he is danger. His dialogue delivery is also more like a family man and dramatic giving away life lessons to his son even when he is in danger.

Stanwyck is well known for her style and fashion. For this film her costumes were designed by Helen Rose. Look at a few of them. Although she didn’t need a lot of change of clothes in this film. They could have given her better footwear though. She is seen running in the sand and over rocks with he heel. I hope she didn’t break her foot running.

Lee Aaker who plays the role of Bobby Stilwin, the son, is known for his role as Rusty in The adventures of Rin-Tin-Tin.

The real villain of the film is not just Ralph Meeker’s character Lawsn; but the various circumstances and mishaps that lead the Stilwins to the danger they end up in. However, Ralph doesn’t disappoint us either. He makes a pretty mean convict with a little heart at the end.

Did you note that award winning cinematographer Victor Milner had a small role in the film, apart from photographing the film? Were you able to find him? I couldn’t find him, but if you are able to identify him, do let me know.

Part of the film is done in a narrative mode by Stanwyck herself giving a running commentary of the entire vacation horror. The low-budgeted film became a surprising success when it was released. John Sturges brought to life a family vacation with horror and chillness enough to keep the viewers on the edge of their seat.

A psychological thriller by a master craftsman, with equally talented actors giving the story more life making the horror all believable.

Spoiler Alerts:

  1. Movie Trivia:
    1. “Lux Radio Theater” broadcast a 60 minute radio adaptation of the movie on March 15, 1954 with Barbara Stanwyck and Barry Sullivan reprising their film roles.
  1. Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:
    1. Helen’s hair goes from soaked to neatly styled between scenes when tide is washing against her.
    2. The pot of coffee is really hot but Bobby is holding it with his hand as opposed to using mitts.
    3. Doug actually manages to remove his leg from under the rotten jetty in the scene, but he shouldn’t be doing it since the leg need to be seen stuck.
    4. Doug says to Helen that the “Mexican” word for rope is cuerda. But shouldn’t it be Spanish? There is no language called Mexican.
    5. When Helen is driving for help, the front view shows a driver with a hat on. The side view shows Helen without a hat.

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