Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Richard Widmark, Lauren Bacall & Gloria Grahame in The Cobweb (1955)

Obscurity factor: 2

This film is a wonderful psychological study of the lives of the patients and doctors and their families at a prestigious psychiatric clinic. The trouble centers around a new set of drapes for the library. Three solutions are put forward by three different parties, and due to a communication breakdown of monumental proportions the conflict leads to near tragedy. Vincente Minnelli and the cast do an excellent job of making that breakdown in communication seem to naturally stem from the flawed characters of the principal players. The subject matter of neuroses is sensitively handled, and what could have been cartoonish and unbelievable comes off as genuine and heart wrenching.

This film has something of a cult following, and is notable also for its soundtrack, which is composed in twelve tones and is quite striking. The cast is also stellar. In addition to Widmark, Bacall and Grahame look for Lillian Gish, Charles Boyer, Oscar Levant (in his last film role) a young Susan Strasberg, Mabel Albertson and the great Fay Wray in a small part as Charles Boyer's wife.
This film was just released on DVD in January of this year. It's currently out of stock at Amazon, but should be somewhat easy to find in the future. It's not available on YouTube. The trailer above is from TCM. The poster is available at

Obscurity factor: 2 (well known among film buffs, available on DVD)

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