The Web (1947)

Genres - Crime, Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Crime Thriller, Melodrama  |   Run Time - 87 min.  |   Countries - USA  |  
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The Web is a seminal film noir title, and one of the more unjustly underrated films in the genre. Indeed, it's a marvelous juggling act on the part of writers Harry Kurnitz and Bertram Millhauser (whose credits also include some of the better Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movies at Universal) and director Michael Gordon, who manages to keep several interlocking and intertwined relationships and story components in the air at once, and pulls them all together so neatly in the finale that the viewer scarcely realizes what's happened until it's over. There's a tremendous amount that's right with this movie, from the little touches of decadence surrounding Andrew Colby (Vincent Price) and the world he lives in, up through the earthy, lusty relationship that develops between Edmond O'Brien's Bob Regan and Ella Raines' Noel Faraday. O'Brien's basic honesty as an actor meshes with Raines' exceptional good looks and cold, cool acting style to strike sparks in their talk, and there's a seduction scene (interrupted, alas, by a shooting) played to the last movement of the Brahms Symphony No. 1 that's pretty neat in all of its not-too-veiled lustiness. And then there's the relationship between Regan and William Bendix's Lieutenant Damico, which is a strange mix of friendship and suspicion -- and Bendix's carefully nuanced portrayal of a hardened New York City police detective. Gordon pulls all of this together around a pretty fair mystery and plot, and the result is a quietly scintillating example of the film noir genre, with some refreshing elements. For once, not only is the hero not the smartest (or the second-, or even the third-smartest) character in the plot, but the police seem to know what they're doing and who they're dealing with. However, it's also realistic enough to acknowledge that in the absence of evidence to back up what he suspects, even a good cop might try and take the easy route and pick up Regan and Faraday if it comes to making a pinch on a murder and conspiracy case (but he'd rather arrest the right guy). The ending may seem a little predictable 50-plus years on, because the particular plot device has been used so many times in movies and on television since, but if one can put aside memories of Peter Falk's Lt. Columbo et al., it still works and shows surprising sophistication for its period.