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SUSPENSE(director: Frank Tuttle; screenwriter: Philip Yordan; cinematographer: Karl Struss; editor: Dick Heermance; music: Daniele Amfitheatrof; cast: Roberta Elva (Belita), Barry Sullivan (Joe Morgan), Albert Dekker (Frank Leonard), Eugene Pallette (Harry), Bonita Granville (Ronnie), Edith Angold (Nora, Maid), George Stone (Max); Runtime: 101; Monogram; 1946)
“The heavy melodrama is suggestive of a nightmare.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Monogram’s most expensive film to date, produced by the King Brothers (Maurice and Frank). An ambitious cad, Joe Morgan (Barry Sullivan), leaves NYC and his nightclub manager’s gig to seek work in Los Angeles. The unshaven and broke Joe lands a job as a peanut vender with Frank Leonard’s ice show. He gives the stage manager Harry (Pallette) an idea to liven up the sagging skating act by suggesting a hoop of knives through which his boss’s wife, Roberta Elva (Belita), will daringly jump through the narrow opening.

Harry tells the boss that the act was Joe’s idea and Joe is promoted to Harry’s assistant. When the boss opens another ice palace in Chicago, he puts Joe in charge of the L. A. show and makes him the ringmaster. A romance blossoms between Roberta and Joe, and the suspicious Frank (Dekker) returns and takes his wife to vacation with him at their hunting mountain retreat.

Joe runs into his ex-girlfriend Ronnie (Granville), who is now working at the ice show and living at his hotel. But he crudely rebuffs her offers to rekindle the romance as he sets his sights solely on Roberta.

Not able to stay away from Roberta, he foolishly visits her at the lodge. Frank leaves them together and from his perched mountain spot fires his high-powered big-game rifle at Joe who is watching Roberta skate on a pond, but he misses and the shot causes an avalanche. Frank’s rifle is recovered but he disappears and is assumed dead. It will not be until spring when the snow thaws and they can find the body.

Roberta thinks Frank is still alive, as she feels his presence in her penthouse. After retreating from work, Harry talks her into going back to work despite her anxiety and to let Joe run things as the boss. This allows for another boring ice skating interlude to open the new show, the most out of place musical number in the film: “Ice Cuba.”

When the jilted and irate Ronnie gets some dirt on why Joe left NYC and uses it against him, his high ride to the top starts to crumble. Also, Roberta continues to be haunted by memories of her husband and can’t relax, becoming increasingly wary of Joe.

Warning: spoiler in the next two paragraphs.

Frank does indeed show up alive and points a gun at Joe while he’s working in his office late at night. He mocks his success, but in the dark office Joe overcomes the revenge-minded Frank and dumps his dead body in the desk — which he burns the next day.

Roberta realizes that Joe killed Frank and wants him to get a lawyer and give himself up, as she brushes him off. Joe decides to get rid of her by loosening one of the knives in her act. But he can’t go through with killing her and decides to flee L.A., but Ronnie waits for him outside the stagedoor and fatally plugs him.

The heavy melodrama is suggestive of a nightmare. It is ruined by its leaden pace, lack of suspense, unpleasant characters, and unconvincing script. The film felt like a truck stuck on the ice, noisily moving back and forth to get some traction.

REVIEWED ON 3/24/2002 GRADE: C –

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”