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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Strangers When We Meet (1960)

This excellent examination of adultery in the suburbs of the 1950s, based on the novel by Evan Hunter, still hasn’t received its due. A married architect (Kirk Douglas) and an unfulfilled housewife (Kim Novak) begin an affair but the ramifications of their infidelity bring consequences that they’re not prepared for. The director, Richard Quine, stays away from the clichés for the most part and when he uses them, he manages to invest them with a reality too often missing from these kinds of films. It’s not unlike Lean’s BRIEF ENCOUNTER but without the romanticism, this one stings. With the exception of John Bryant as Novak’s husband (we‘re never really privy to him though there's a suggestion he may be gay), the major characters are allowed full development. It would have been easy for Quine and company to portray Douglas’s wife (a fine performance by Barbara Rush) as a cold fish or a shrew but she’s a decent, loving wife. The resignation of its protagonists at the end of the film precludes an emotional catharsis but it rings true. Handsomely shot in CinemaScope by Oscar winner Charles Lang. The large cast includes Ernie Kovacs, Walter Matthau (in fine form as a hypocritical lech), Virginia Bruce, Kent Smith, Helen Gallagher, Nancy Kovack, Roberta Shore, Paul Picerni, Betsy Jones Moreland and Sue Ane Langdon.

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