12 April 2010
This movie feels like a bit of an artifact of its time to me, though I don't necessarily mean that as a bad thing. By today's more savvy standards, the addiction and psychosis of James Mason's Ed Avery is on par with the psychoanalysis in Hitchcock's Spellbound: it clearly takes wild artistic license with something that at the time was newly realized and not often discussed. Ignoring all of that, the transformation from nice, bow-tie schoolteacher Ed into what the Criterion case charming calls "a psychotic and ultimately violent household despot" is smartly handled if over-the-top, and to consider a movie like this exaggerating society's moral and political ideals and lambasting the suburban nuclear family in the middle of the 1950s, well, that's a bold move, Mr. Ray. Hats off to you. (For the famously bisexual director of Rebel Without a Cause to make this film, it seems like the perfect fit.)
How the movie is directly about the lies of American life, both then and in a way, still now -- it makes me think about my suburban-horror film in a different way. I don't know what to do with that yet, but the seed's been planted. Are we lying to ourselves about the ideas of family and love and class (especially in suburbia) any less now? I'm not sure. Something I have to think about, and what I want to do about that.