Monday, May 13, 2019

Close-up (1948)

Directed by Jack Donohue; produced by Frank Satenstein

Out on a routine human-interest filming session, the day of a news-cameraman (Alan Baxter) turns extraordinary when he inadvertently captures passers-by on film. A man (Russell Collins) begs to be given some footage to avoid his romantic dalliance being discovered. Agreeing to the good deed, the cameraman and his editor (Loring Smith) discover the real reason for the request: an escaped Nazi war-criminal (Richard Kollmar) was also captured on film.

Not bad as very low budget thrillers go, Close-up is nonetheless not very good, either. Baxter had had a strong career in the 1930s and ‘40s, but was no longer making grade A, or even B, films by this time. Certainly his acting probably did not qualify him for top roles. Leading lady Virginia Gilmore is now best known - if known at all - for being Yul Brynner’s first wife. Her talent too placed her squarely in the second grade of movie performers. All the players are competent, without being quite completely believable.

The story is a good one, and may have been one of the first to use the premise of an accidental recording of an image on film leading to murder and mayhem. It must be a contender as well for the early plot-line of an escaping Nazi. But the script doesn’t translate these advantages. There are instances when the viewer is left asking the dreaded cinematic question, “Why?” When two pairs of villains confront each other, one set shoots an opponent but merely knocks the second out. Why? Baxter is taken prisoner and brought on the climactic chase. Why? Would it have not been in the villains’ interest to kill him instead?

Good use is made of New York locations and facilities, especially an action scene on board a ferry, and indeed, the setting of scenes is beneficial to the look of the film. One suspects that this department was handled by somebody who didn’t have much else to do with the movie.

While not exactly a waste of time, Close-up doesn’t summon enough enthusiasm to make one glad to have seen it. No doubt quickly made, it will just as swiftly leave one’s memory.

1 comment:

  1. Considering how ubiquitous smart phones are nowadays, I'd say this premise was ripe for an update...except I suppose it's now pretty commonplace to film people who, well, would rather not be captured on film.