Thursday, August 4, 2016

The 3rd Voice (1960)

Directed by  Hubert Cornfield. Written by Hubert Cornfield (Sudden Danger (1955), (Plunder Road (1957), and based on "All The Way " aka “The Concrete Flamingo” a novel first published in 1958 by Charles Williams (Dead Calm (1989), The Hot Spot (1990)). Cinematography was by Ernest Haller (The Unfaithful (1947), The Come On (1956), ) and music by Johnny Mandel.

The film stars Edmond O'Brien (one of the kings of classic noir with 10+ films), Julie London (The Red House (1947), The Fat Man (1951), Crime Against Joe (1956)), Laraine Day (The Woman on Pier 13 (1949)), Olga San Juan, George Eldredge, Tom Hernández, Abel Franco, Tom Daly, and Ralph Brooks.

A man (O'Brien) in silhouette paces before the picture window. We see an early morning nocturne, high atop a crescent bay on a Mexican hillside. The man's sharp voice is aggressively dictating business strategy into a reel to reel tape recorder. He pauses, rewinds the tape and drags on a tar bar while listening to the playback. He stops the playback and replaces the tape with one labeled Harris Chapman. In a voice over the man describes Harris Chapman as a wealthy Seattle businessman that he says he knows everything about but has never met him or anybody ever connected to him except Marian Forbes.

In the novel that the screenplay was based on the man's name is Jerry, in the film the character is simply billed as "the Voice". The local is also transposed from Miami Beach to an anonymous Mexican resort town.

The new tape plays and we hear Marian Forbes (Day) read a biography of Harris Chapman, birth date, parents names, personal tics, i.e, "he grew a mustache during his stint in the Navy and has worn it ever since. After the service he developed eyestrain and wears glasses, usually horn rims. He's a hypochondriac and carries around a miniature drugstore with him. After the cancer scare he uses a silver cigarette holder along with filtered cigarettes." While Marian speaks we see the man looking at his window reflection, touching his moustache, placing horn rim glasses on, removing a silver cigarette holder from his pocket and placing his lit cigarette into it. "Chapman is 6 feet tall, 195 pounds, grey eyes, 46 years old, brown hair greying at the temples. He usually wears a hat and feels undressed without one." The man places a hat on his head, his transformation is complete.

Marion continues, "you may not look like him but based on the general unreliability of descriptions, I'd say you look exactly like him. Hobby, big game fishing, usually Miami, but this year Mexico, the point to all of this is....." The man shuts off the recording and speaks in voiceover, "the point is some of us will do anything for money."

The man drives to a small resort town airstrip to pick up Marion. Marion immediately begins to quiz the man on various details of Harris Chapman's life.

Marion (Laraine Day)

The Voice (O'Brien)
Marion: Who's Francis Blane?
Man: Fiance, young socially prominent...

Marion was the private secretary and former mistress of Chapman. She was the financial brains behind Chapman's business fortunes. Chapman dumped her, and offered her six months salary if she would quit the company. Marion is out for blood and money. Marion's intense grilling of Jerry runs through the day and into the evening. It's now or never. Chapman is arriving at the airport for some deep sea fishing tonight.

Jerry drives down to the airstrip. At the arrivals desk he hands a note for Chapman to the clerk, then goes to the phone and dials Marion.

He watches Chapman (Ralph Brooks) arrive at the desk and tells Marion over the phone that he's read the note, and he's taking the bait. Chapman angered marches over to the bank of phones. Jerry hangs up as now Champan calls Marion. Marion tells Chapman that he must come up to see her about the 1955 tax return. She appears to be blackmailing him. Chapman hangs up. Jerry calls her back to tell her he got a taxi and is on the way. Marion tells Jerry to wait five minutes and drive back up.

When Chapman arrives at the hilltop house Marian blasts him in the living room.

Marian about to blast Chapman

Jerry gets there and does clean up.  He removes a pre-stored tarp from a closet, rolls his body onto it and methodically empties Chapman's pockets of all effects, eyeglass case,  pill capsules, wallet, lighter, passport, pocket knife, etc. Then he strips off his watch, he struggles with getting Chapman's pinky ring, looking at the pocket knife, contemplating cutting his finger off. He wraps Chapman in the tarp and drags the body out to the bathroom dumping it in the tub, while Marian lays on the bed enticingly.

After Jerry and Marian get reaquainted he drivers her back to the airstrip for the connecting flights back to Seattle. Jerry changes clothes hooks a boat up to his convertible then drives back up to the hilltop house to take care of Chapman. He dumps the body into the boat and drives to the bay. He backs up to the surf and launches the boat and deep sixes Chapman's body.

Back at the hotel Jerry opens Chapman's suitcase and finds a present. It's a book on deep sea fishing from "Angel" Francine Blaine. He gets, coincidently, a call from Angel and thanks her for the present, he cuts the call short telling her that he "has to see a man about a fish."

All reviews of the film miss the significance of this last sequence as it actually references the title. Angel is The 3rd Voice.

Afterwards Jerry makes the complete transformation into Chapman and starts phase two of Marian's plan. He contacts a Mexican real estate agent and starts the ball rolling on $250,000 down for a $600,000 total investment for a site for a resort hotel and marina. He talks to Seattle and has them wire $10,000 to the Mexican bank in town. He also starts phase one of HIS plan. He asks his taxi driver for a woman. When she shows up at his hotel room she is a blond. This won't do, so he gives her some money and sends her away.

Down in the hotel bar he spots a beautiful buxom brunette who he saw earlier in the lobby she tells him her name is Corey Scott (London). He makes small talk and they make a date for later the next day after he goes fishing. Jerry's plan is to frame Marian using Corey Scott.

Corey Scott (London)

He tells the hotel desk captain he's expecting Marion Forbes and to send her right up but also says that she may be using a different name.

In one sequence Jerry, while entertaining Corey, calls a judge and his wife that know Chapman. He almost ran into them at the last hotel he was checked into. They ask if he's down there with Angel. He tells them he's alone. They want to have dinner with him, while Jerry talks to the wife he spills champagne down the front of Corey's dress, her loud exclamation of surprise  is heard by the judges wife. The wife is indignant, and of course, Jerry avoids the meeting.

He makes sure he's seen all around town with Corey, he even calls her Marian being sure to do so in front of others, apologizing to Corey by telling her that she reminds him of someone. Jerry flashes the money in his wallet to Corey. Jerry pretends to be drunk and passes out figuring correctly that Corey, who he thinks is a hooker, will leave with the cash.

Jerry aims to frame Marion and ankle with the whole $250,000.

Of course during his final confrontation with Marion, everything inevitably goes sliding down into Noirsville.

The 3rd Voice is entertaining, it's mostly Edmund Obrien's show with some nice eye candy provided by Julie London. It's essential for a Edmund O'Brien completists or Julie London fans. Screencaps are from a multi-copy avi file, it could use a restoration. 6.5-7/10

Noirsville Bonus:

Julie London - production stills from The 3rd Voice

Julie London sings

No comments:

Post a Comment