Whirlpool (1949)

Article #1667 by Dave Sindelar
Viewing Date: 10-7-2005
Posting Date: 3-6-2006
Directed by Otto Preminger
Featuring Gene Tierney, Richard Conte, Jose Ferrer

When the wife of a noted psychoanalyst is caught shoplifting, she is saved from scandal by the intervention of a man who uses hypnotism to help his patients. Afraid of telling her husband of her problems with kleptomania, she turns to the hypnotist for help with her problem, only to discover that his intentions are suspect.

This is more film noir than horror, but the presence of hypnotism as a plot element pushes the movie into marginal horror, and the role that hypnotism plays in the proceedings is very prominent. The story itself is very interesting; it is based on a novel by Guy Endore (who has a wealth of horror credits to him), and the screenplay is written by the great Ben Hecht. The first half of the movie is a little slow, but it remains interesting and sets up the events in the second half of the movie. Perhaps the most intriguing element in the movie is the puzzle that pops up at this time; the woman finds herself arrested for murder, and the most likely other suspect has an alibi; he is in the hospital recovering from a gall bladder operation. How could he have committed the murder under these conditions? The answer to that question is a real humdinger; in fact, it’s near unbelievable, and it’s a tribute to the direction of Otto Preminger and the superb performance from Jose Ferrer that the movie pulls it off. The movie is solid and worthwhile, and I recommend it in particular to anyone interested in the various ways that hypnotism is portrayed in the movies.


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