Pointing out that a younger actress with a more vulnerable persona would have been a better choice than an early 40s Joan Crawford for the lead in the well-written and filmed 1947 noir classic "Possessed" must be stated at the risk of awakening one night to find a broad-shouldered axe-wielding ghost flailing away with a wire hanger in her other hand. However, it must be said.
The recent Warner Archive Blu-ray release of "Possessed" provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate both the performance of Crawford and the film itself. Determining whether you think that the work warrants a designation of "Hollywood" royalty," "box office poison," or something in the middle of these extremes is part of the fun of this experience. Archive sharing that playing Louise (but hardly Lovey) Howell in the film earns Crawford a Best Actress Oscar nomination is some help.
Regardless of any analysis of the wisdom of casting Crawford in the film, the overall movie and the terrific black-and-white film noir cinematography look absolutely fabulous in this remastered BD release.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the theatrical trailer for "Possessed" conveys all of the above.
"Possessed" opens with a distraught and frantic Howell roaming the streets of Los Angeles desperately seeking David. This erratic behavior soon lands her in the hospital. A creative POV scene in one long take on the arrival of Howell at said medical care facility is one of the best in the film and truly is Hitchcockian.
Another good (and especially noiresque) early scene has the shadows from the headboard of Howell's hospital bed cross her face in a good (bot not so subtle) effort to convey that she "caged" in prison.
On sedating Louise, who has nothin' to do and no where to go, her team of caregivers slowly get some sense of the story of this schizophrenic Jane Doe. The fact that Howell's memory is as swiss cheesed as that of Dr. Sam Beckett on the classic scifi series "Quantum Leap" makes this task tough.
The condensed (and spoiler free) recap of the flashbacks that convey the incidents that lead to Howell roving the streets far from home are that two traumas within a short period of time places her on the edge. A later incident that is closely related to both incidents ultimately causes the final snap.
Much of the brilliance of "Possessed" relates to taking the time to tell the story and showing the action as it unfolds. Many films would focus more on the efforts to elicit those memories.
Further, one really experiences the descent into madness that Howell experiences. Her delusions are so credible that the audience joins her in believing that they are reality.
Crawford does a great job with the body language and harsh and manic facial expressions that her role requires; however, the delivery of her lines lacks the power and the passion associated with the ordeals and inner turmoil that Howell is experiencing. Crawford does not phone it in but also neglects to put method in her madness.
At the same time, the overall film is a good one that is well worth adding to your collection; the addition of the DVD version to the Unreal TV long predates the existence of this site.
The BD extras include the special feature "Possessed: The Quintessential Film Noir" and the wonderfully '40s noir theatrical trailer.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Possessed" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.