ALIAS NICK BEAL (1949)
Article #1490 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 4-13-2005
Posting Date: 9-10-2005
Directed by John Farrow
Featuring Ray Milland, Audrey Totter, Thomas Mitchell
A crusading District Attorney hooks up with a mysterious figure who helps him put a public menace behind bars by tempting him into performing an illegal act. The D.A. then finds himself running for governor, only to find that his action has repercussions and that the mysterious stranger has sinister motives.
Though it may not be clear from the above plot description, this is a variation on the “deal-with-the-devil” story line, and it’s a good one; it manages to effectively combine both horror and film noir, a combination that rarely occurs. It’s anchored by two excellent performances; Thomas Mitchell is memorable as the District Attorney who finds himself being tempted, and Ray Milland gives one of his finest performances as the eerie and unsettling Nick Beal, whose plan to trap the soul of the District Attorney is subtle and fiendish. The movie is also peopled with some other familiar faces; fans of Universal science fiction movies of the fifties will no doubt recognize Nestor Paiva as a bartender, Fred Clark (from DR. GOLDFOOT AND THE BIKINI MACHINE and CURSE OF THE MUMMY’S TOMB) is on hand as a the head of a corrupt political machine, and Douglas Spencer (Scotty in THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD) has a small but memorable role as a man named Finch. Interestingly, perennial villain George Macready plays a force for good this time, as the reverend who rightly figures out what Nick Beal is really up to. As far as “deal-with-the-devil” stories go, this one is subtle, convincing and haunting. Highly recommended.