Palpable desire fills the screen in The Tarnished Angels, but it's a desire that comes with strings attached to it. The four characters that form the basis of the plot each desire something or someone so badly that it passes into the realm of torture, and Angels, thanks to the guiding hand of director Douglas Sirk, revels in that torture. Tension, lust, and frustration practically drip from the screen, especially when Dorothy Malone is on hand. Even when her emotions are held in check, she never lets the viewer forget that a well of anguish lies beneath those tightly composed features. Malone's performance is utterly compelling, and she gets excellent help from Robert Stack, who brings just the proper intensity to his part. Even a puffy Jack Carson turns in a surprisingly well-judged performance. Unfortunately, Rock Hudson, in the crucial role of the reporter, falls far short; he's not bad, but he lacks a convincing passion. His character, we are told repeatedly, is obsessed with these people; the actor merely goes through the motions of being obsessed, and this throws much of the film out of kilter. Still there's enough in the film to make up for this (and some other) flaws, and Sirk creates some unforgettable images (a Mardi Gras reveler with a death mask interrupting Hudson and Malone, the carnival airplane sequence accompanying the crash of Stack's airplane). Angels is far from perfect, but it's almost always compelling.