(director: W.S. Van Dyke; screenwriters: based on a novel by James Hilton/Edward Chodorov/Christopher Isherwood/ Robert Thoeren; cinematographers: Oliver T. Marsh/George J. Folsey; editor: Harold F. Kress; music: Bronislau Kaper; cast: Robert Montgomery (Philip Monrell), Ingrid Bergman (Stella Bergen), George Sanders (Ward Andrews), Lucile Watson (Mrs. Monrell), Oskar Homolka (Dr. Rameau), Philip Merivale (Mr. Higgins); Runtime: 85; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: Gottfried Reinhardt; MGM; 1941)
Disappointing melodrama.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Disappointing melodrama, shot like a film noir in a moody black and white photography. Efficient autocratic filmmaker W.S. Van Dyke (“Rosalie”/”Andy Hardy Gets Spring Fever”/”Another Thin Man”), known as “One-take Woody,”was the second director, after Robert Sinclair quit when he got ill and couldn’t get star Robert Montgomery to cooperate and do some acting. MGM forced Montgomery to make this pic under threat of suspending him and cutting his studio salary. A third director, Richard Thorpe, did the retakes when Van Dyke wasn’t available. Montgomery wanted time off the seven-year contract for a vacation. To get even with the studio Montgomery decided to just read his lines in a deadpan manner and not act. This ruse didn’t help a pic that needed all the help it could get, as the plot was far-fetched and the melodramatics were stilted.

It’s based on a popular novel by James Hilton and cowritten with a murky plot by Edward Chodorov, Christopher Isherwood and Robert Thoeren. It’s set in England.

Unstable neurotic millionaire Paul Montrell (Robert Montgomery) returns from a vacation in Paris to his country mansion just outside London and his frail mom ( Lucile Watson). In Paris, Paul tried suicide but was taken to an insane asylum where he used the name of his engineering friend Ward Andrews (George Sanders). Paul escapes to London, and at home falls madly in love with Mom’s attractive new secretary Stella (Ingrid Bergman). The insecure Paul marries her despite thinking she really loves his more confident friend. For health reasons, his widowed mom leaves for South Africa and he’s to manage the steel mill.

In a heavy-handed way Philip is revealed as a psychopath who is insanely jealous of his best friend Ward and plots his own death so that Ward will be the main suspect. It works and Ward is sentenced to hang for the murder of Philip, who committed suicide. In a predictable way, Ward is saved at the 11th hour from execution when Parisian clinic director Dr. Rameau (Oskar Homolka) remembers Philip from his stay at his clinic and informs the British authorities.

Rage in Heaven Poster

REVIEWED ON 7/7/2011 GRADE: C    https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/