House of Strangers (1949)


Bil’s rating (out of 5):  BBBB

USA, 1949.  Twentieth Century Fox.  Screenplay by , based on the novel by .  Cinematography by .  Produced by .  Music by .  Production Design by , .  Film Editing by .  Cannes Film Festival 1949.  

lords over this dark, upsetting drama that focuses on family tragedy but plays like film noir. gets out of prison after seven years and goes to visit his three shady brothers, seemingly intent on revenge. We then flash back to the events leading up to his imprisonment, concentrated at his family home where Italian American dad (Robinson) rules the roost with an iron hand, constantly putting down his sons in the name of making them strong. Conte is the most favoured of the bunch, the lawyer who runs his practice out of his father’s bank, while the other three work for meager pay as employees of the credit and loan company that eventually comes under fire for shifty dealings. Susan Hayward is overwrought as the femme fatale who ruins Conte’s plans to marry a nice Italian girl () thanks to their sexually charged evenings in divey bars. Robinson’s rough ways with the boys (played with a spirited gusto that earned him a Best Actor prize at Cannes) eventually reveal themselves as being stifling rather than inspiring, which paves the way to a very impressive climax. It’s a strange combination of elements, a very somber story about family dysfunction that has the attitude of a gangster pic without ever involving gangsters.

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