Appropriately titled if one considers this black and white effort from Universal-International includes Vincent Price as one of our key players. No this isn’t a tale of spiders and chills in the horror genre but is in fact a twisting tale of deceit and murder starring one of the Noir genre’s poster boys, Edmond O’Brien.
Directed by Michael Gordon, the plot kicks off when a tired looking Fritz Lieber meets his daughter, Maria Palmer, at the train station. He’s just done a five year stretch in prison and is disappointed that his former business partner, Price, is nowhere to be seen.
“Brash and hotheaded.”
The answer Ella Raines gives to her boss, Price, after lawyer O’Brien crashes his business meeting looking to settle a claim on behalf of a client for $68. The amused, Price, deals in hundreds of thousands of dollars and is quite taken with the young O’Brien’s drive to succeed. He makes a pitch for the young lawyer’s services.
Eddie likes the money being offered his way and better still has an eye for the very kittenish, Miss Raines. Price has offered Eddie an easy 5K and all he has to do to earn it is ensure that no harm comes to him from a former business partner released from prison who may wish to do him harm. Just two weeks work until Price closes a major business deal and heads overseas to Paris.
Sounds simple and Eddie borrows a gun from Price’s vast collection of firearms. A permit? No problem. Enter old pal William Bendix on the police force who OK’s the permit but offers up some fatherly advice on carrying a deadly weapon.
Let’s just say it’s all a little too simple. While Eddie is making eyes at Ella a shot rings out from Price’s office and when Eddie rushes into the room, former partner Lieber turns on him with a gun in hand. Eddie fires first killing the intruder. The police are called in and everything ties up nicely. Price and Eddie are released having killed in self defense.
Time for a that first turn that Eddie didn’t see coming. Bendix who always does a fine job at playing it a bit goofy usually has a bit more on the ball than he let’s on. He wants answers and figures to use Eddie to get them. He wants to know where the million dollars from five years ago has disappeared to. The money that Lieber was sent to prison over. He suspects that Lieber took the fall on behalf of Price and came to collect what was due him and that Price engineered the whole set up using Eddie as a ……
If you said patsy, then you’d be right.
Bendix cuts Eddie loose and leaves him to his own devices to start digging up the truth. Eddie isn’t too sure his suspicions are correct until approached by Lieber’s daughter who offers up a key piece of information. Lieber wasn’t trespassing the night he was killed. He was invited to see Price.
That’s it. I’m turning the tap off of plot twists and turns. See this rare Noir entry for yourself to see just how far Eddie get’s tangled up in Price’s web of murder and seduced by Ella’s charms. So how rare is it? Well in my world it is. I checked and when it comes to Vincent Price there are very few films that he appeared in I’ve yet to see. This marks the 82nd movie I can now check off my list that the iconic actor graced out of 98 by my count. I’m not even going to consider the television shows though I did love that Brady Bunch appearance when I was a youngster along with his Hilarious House of Frightenstein gig …..
“The candle lights are going dim. There’s no one left but me and him. When next we meet at Frankenstone, don’t come alone.”
Where quotes are concerned, Price, has a beauty in The Web when he overhears Eddie asking Ella what Price is really like. Price interjects, “attractive, generous, warm hearted, brilliant.” I know Price is playing the heavy but damn, that sounds like the real Price off screen based on most anything I’ve read or heard about him since my fascination with the actor and horror movies began ages ago as a kid staying up to catch the late late show.
I can only thank Kino Lorber Studio Classics for putting The Web out on blu ray recently.
Director Michael Gordon I should think is best known for his romantic comedies of the late 1950’s into the early 60’s with Pillow Talk starring Doris Day and Rock Hudson leading the way. Still, prior to that point in his career he dabbled in Nor entries with both a Boston Blackie and a Crime Doctor flick. Having immediately fallen for The Web after my first viewing, I think it’s ironic that I felt the same way after seeing another Noir he directed, Woman In Hiding, for the first time not all that long ago proving to me that even after years and years of watching classic era films, there are always more to discover and enjoy for the first time.
Noir fans should be more than familiar with the contributions of Edmond O’Brien to the genre including his role in my all time favorite James Cagney film, White Heat. Seeing Eddie as a young leading man always strikes me as odd thanks to my earliest memory of him in The Wild Bunch playing Skyes. The old timer with the matted beard and tobacco stained teeth who looks as if he hasn’t bathed in months.
Though she had only a handful of movie credits to her name, Ella Raines, was made for the Noir genre. Sultry, sexy and quick with verbal punches, she also appeared alongside Charles Laughton in The Suspect, Burt Lancaster in Brute Force, Brian Donlevy in Impact and in an underrated modern day western with Randolph Scott called The Walking Hills from director John Sturges. She appeared to have backed off movie making as the 1950’s progressed.
William Bendix should be another household name to those who love 1940’s cinema, especially for fans of Alan Ladd as Bendix frequently appeared with his offscreen pal. Bendix was also adept at comedy and would even reteam with Price in the 1954 Noir thriller (in color), Dangerous Mission.
There are plenty of reasons to see The Web. Not only is it great entertainment but with the four main stars on board it’s all but required viewing. Most definitely for us fans of the legendary Vincent Price.