Portrait in Black (1960)
“This was supposed to bring us together. Now it’s only keeping us apart.”
So says Lana Turner who isn’t very happy with lover Anthony Quinn when he suggests they must remain calm and see very little of each other in the aftermath of murdering her wealthy husband Lloyd Nolan.
Nolan plays a shipping tycoon and stern task master whose become bedridden. Physician Tony Quinn is administering the needles to keep Nolan alive. All it would take is just one air bubble to free Lana from the servitude and constant verbal abuse she gets from her hubby. Then of course after a little time for grieving the two would be free to pick up their romance and go public.
The plan seems air tight with Tony signing the death certificate and all is well until a letter arrives for Lana congratulating her on a successful murder. There is a blackmailer involved and now the two must figure out who it is and kill again to keep their secret.
Lana returns to the framework of her Noir triumph The Postman Always Rings Twice as she entered the final years of her film career by teaming up with Quinn who was in a solid run of titles from the early fifties on. Now that the two know they have a problem they must figure out who it is.
These two murderers have a list of suspects including Richard Basehart as the man who is taking over Nolan’s duties with the company and would like nothing better than to claim Lana as his own. We have a lowlife chauffeur up to his neck in gambling debts played by Ray Walston. Anna May Wong as the nosy maid who runs the Turner household. Virginia Grey as Nolan’s secretary who just might know more than the average temp.
When our two lovers are sure they know who the black mailer is they commit their second murder. Things are about to go sideways when the next letter arrives complimenting them on their second successful killing.
This time they have a fall guy who could quite possibly put them in the clear. John Saxon is the number one suspect with the local police. He’s in love with Sandra Dee who happens to be Nolan’s daughter from an earlier marriage. Saxon had words with the second victim and looks like a slam dunk in the eyes of the local police as the would be killer.
Can Lana and Tony catch a break and get away with things? Not likely. It’s just a matter of letting us see how things are going to fall apart.
This Universal International “B” plot has been given the “A” treatment with a first rate cast. That alone makes it worth checking out. It’s directed by Michael Gordon for producer Ross Hunter.
Lana gets the star treatment with the close ups and both the viewers and Tony are treated to seeing her in a full length mink coat. Lana is fine here but for me it’s Quinn that is always interesting to watch, Especially during his run from about 1952 to 1970. Among so many great leading men of the era, Quinn stands near the top at bringing an unbridled passion to the screen on a regular basis. Old pro Nolan has a rather short time on camera but of course makes great use of it which was par for the course throughout his career.
Aside from an overly melodramatic score at times and a corny Oath flashback that Quinn’s doctor is experiencing this murderous thriller makes for a diverting night of movie watching.