Monday, February 27, 2006

Day 57: "The House on Carroll Street"

Director: Peter Yates 1988
A neat, underappreciated thriller set in 1951 during the anti-Communist witch hunts. Kelly McGillis (and why didn't she have a bigger career?) plays a photo editor at Life magazine who loses her job after declining to name names before a HUAC-like committee. An uncharacteristically restrained Mandy Patinkin plays the committee's oily counsel, clearly inspired by Roy Cohn. Jeff Daniels is a sympathetic FBI agent ordered to hound McGillis; of course, he falls for her. The plot involves the government smuggling in Nazi scientists--scientists who also happen to be war criminals.
There are Hitchcockian touches, including a climax along the ceiling of Grand Central Terminal. Unfortunately, Yates ("Bullitt," "Breaking Away") is no Hitchcock, although there are enough suspenseful moments to make up for the occasional Nancy Drew-like plot turns. One thing the film does brilliantly is recreate the New York of the early 50s, particularly Greenwich Village and Park Slope, where the house of the title is located.
Written by Walter Bernstein, who was a victim of the blacklist, and who covered similar turf in the 1976 dramedy, "The Front," with Woody Allen.


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