“Next time you hear some odd noise in the night, just follow the memorable custom of your sex and stick your head under the bedclothes.”
Cry Wolf is a Noir (if it can be classified as a Noir) that is not very well known. It stars two of Hollywood’s most classic actors Errol Flynn and Barbara Stanwyck. I had never heard of the film before I typed in Stanwyck’s name on Amazon to see what films of her's were available on DVD. I was curious to see Cry Wolf not only for its title and plot but for the combination of Flynn and Stanwyck.
Sandra Demarest (Stanwyck) has gone to her husband’s family home for his funeral. She never would have known he was dead if she had not read it in the papers. As Sandra explains Jim married her for the sake of his inheritance to keep his uncle Mark (Flynn) from getting the money. From the moment she gets to the house Sandra senses something strange is going on. Jim’s casket is closed when he apparently died of phenomena and Mark and a family friend are suspicious of her and her marriage to Jim. They believe she is just some woman Jim knew and is after his great sum of money.
Jim’s sister, Julie, instantly takes to Sandra and reveals many things to her. Julie says that her uncle is untrusting and believes her uncle killed her brother because Jim did not do what Mark wanted him to do. Julie is scared to stay in the house by herself and one night she runs into Sandra’s room after hearing a scream coming from Mark’s laboratory. Someone usually tells Julie the screams are just a nightmare she has but Sandra also hears it. They go to investigate the scream but are stopped by Mark.
The next day Julie takes Sandra to look at Jim’s room. Sandra has been suspicious of Jim’s death since the day she came to the house and her suspicion was on overdrive once she started looking around the room. She notices Jim’s pipes are missing as well as his sport clothes in the closet. She finds out from the maid that Mark has food sent up to him at 10:30 every night through the dumbwaiter in the kitchen and it is brought down at two in the morning. Sandra decides to use the dumbwaiter to get into the lab. In the lab she hits a water cooler making it move when she hears a noise and hides behind the door Mark opens. He notices some things that are out of place but he just goes back into his lab.
Things go from bad to worse for Sandra. Julie kills herself out of insanity and Mark just sees her as a little experiment to which she slaps him for. Now Sandra has become more determined to find Jim and uncover why Mark is hiding him and what lies under his seemingly sinister demeanor.
The ending to the film is not good. The whole thing runs so smoothly with excellent suspense and tension and then the last ten minutes are not good, I would not say it sucks or its garbage it just ruins the flow.
I loved Barbara Stabwyck and Errol Flynn together. Everyone is so used to seeing Flynn as this debonair sword wielding good guy but he was so good as the sinister Mark Caldwell. From the moment he enters the film I loved him I thought his character was great. One reviewer on IMDB said that Flynn reminded them of characters George Sanders played and I have to agree and Flynn was so good at it. This role for him was so different and he got to play something different and it was great to see him stretch his acting talent. Barbara Stanwyck was so good. She was the tough chick that she loved to play who was also heroic and unafraid to uncover the truth. She leapt, climbed a fence and through an open roof window, and more. Stanwyck gives a great performance I enjoyed her very much.
Whatever you do when/if you watch the film do not think of the characters as their real ages. Stanwyck was forty years old and Flynn was thirty-eight years old. Mark was supposed to be Jim’s uncle and therefore older than Stanwyck’s character. I assume this situation is part of the story but I feel quite sure it is because a lot of times in classic films they usually made their actors and actresses ages much younger than they were.
I have never heard of the director Peter Godfrey before but I really liked his direction he did a fabulous job of creating tension and suspense through camera movements and angles. Godfrey created the tension by focusing and panning on details such as Sandra’s hand when she turned on the light in her room and following Mark as he goes to sit down next to Sandra. Some of the camera angles were fantastic. The cinematography was excellent as well. The score was perfectly composed by Franz Waxman who added a great deal more of tension to the film.
Cry Wolf starts off great and runs smoothly until the end. But do not let the end keep you from seeing the film. There are many great suspenseful moments to keep you enthralled and Barbara Stanwyck and Errol Flynn are great together.
Cry Wolf is available on DVD.