When Strangers Marry (1944)

Genres - Thriller  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Thriller, Film Noir, Police Detective Film, Romantic Mystery  |   Run Time - 67 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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In his later career as a director/producer, William Castle was often accused -- with some justification -- of ripping off Alfred Hitchcock. But even here, at the outset of his career, Castle shows a unique command of the thriller genre, and an ability to do more than move actors around in front of a camera (usually as much as one could expect in a Monogram Pictures production) -- and a thorough knowledge of Hitchcock's bag of tricks as it was known in 1944. In terms of plot, When Strangers Marry (later retitled Betrayed) plays as though someone took the best elements of Suspicion, Shadow of a Doubt, and The 39 Steps, plus The Seventh Victim (Kim Hunter's first film) and Val Lewton's overall approach to low-budget production, put them all into a box, shook them up, and spliced them together into this very satisfying whole. Unlike most B-pictures of the period, When Strangers Marry doesn't feel rushed or threadbare, and the acting is spot-on, although Robert Mitchum wasn't yet quite a good enough actor to do what the script demanded of him in the denouement. But Castle sustains the mood of suspense all the way through, and even manages to lighten it in odd ways, including an interlude in Harlem featuring an exceptional dance sequence in a club featuring Marie Bryant, which is not only a beautifully staged and photographed segment but doesn't break the mood of the picture one bit.