LAURA

OTTO PREMINGER

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“I shall never forget the weekend Laura died . . .” With those haunting words begins one of the most remarkable confections of the Hollywood studio era. The firing of A-list auteur Rouben Mamoulian meant that producer Otto Preminger took over directorial duties too, rebuilding from the ground up what proved among the most sophisticated of 1940s thrillers.

The murder of the eponymous femme fatale (played in flashback by the devastatingly lovely Gene Tierney) leaves investigating cop Dana Andrews progressively falling in love with a dead woman, while suspicion lingers on the men who shaped Laura’s curdled fate – Clifton Webb’s preening, acid-tongued critic, and a youthfully puppyish Vincent Price in Southern playboy mode.

That nobody notices both suitors seem as gay as they come is just one of the film’s curiosities, but the wickedly quotable dialogue keeps on coming as fast as the plot twists and backflips, and David Raksin’s succulent music supplies an overriding aura of romantic obsession. Celluloid alchemy at its finest, now beautifully restored. (Notes by Trevor Johnston.)

EXCLUSIVELY AT THE IFI

88 minutes, U.S.A., 1944, Black and White, D-Cinema

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