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Ghost Canyon

A Life At Stake [Special Edition] [Blu-ray]
(Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes, et al / Blu-ray / NR / (1955) 2021 / The Film Detective)

Overview: Spoiled young Doris Hillman (Lansbury) invites struggling architect Edward Shaw (Andes) to come in as her husband’s partner in a lucrative real estate deal. However, when Edward becomes romantically involved with Doris, he learns that something deadly is going on.

There’s a life at stake, and it could be his own. This independent production from the golden age of film noir was described by the Los Angeles Times as a study in fear.

It also shows Angela Lansbury, already a double Oscar nominee, as you’ve never seen her. She’s a charming femme fatale. But is she as bad as she seems?

Blu-ray Verdict: This quite magnificent, new 4K transfer with archived film elements film from 1955, A Life at Stake might not have been on my viewing radar back in the mid-50’s, but due to The Film Detective, is most assuredly is today!

This film stars mostly unknown actors, other than Angela Lansbury in a leading role and Jane Darwell in a supporting role. The leading man is played by Keith Andes - a handsome and rather non-descript actor who, at first, I had trouble recognizing.

Then I realized that I had seen him in a bad episode of the original Star Trek series as the High Priest of Val (a giant rock-hewn lizard God). Not exactly an auspicious role, I know, but it is what it is, I guess.

Edward is a down and out architect whose old partner split and left him ridden with debts. Into this sorry life appears Doris who offers to have him go into business with her and her older husband.

The offer is just too good to be true - sudden wealth and a somewhat attractive married woman throwing herself at him - and so despite misgivings, he agrees to the partnership.

Of course, a part of this partnership includes a life insurance policy on him, so in case he died his partners wouldn’t be left without a builder.

Over time, Edward becomes convinced that maybe the reason the two took him on in partnership was because they planned on killing him and collecting the (at the time) whopping $175,000 policy.

In what has to be one of the most bizarre scenes in the movie, Edward is brooding on the porch of the ratty boarding house when Doris comes up in her convertible.

She awkwardly leans over the passenger side and they passionately kiss ... whilst negotiating an insurance policy!

So that goes something like this: ** Kiss-Kiss-Smooch-Kiss ** - So, how about $225,000? ** Kiss-Kiss** - No, $150,000! ** Smooch-Kiss-Kiss ** - $200,000? ** Kiss-Kiss ** - $175,000! ** Kiss-Kiss-Kiss-Kiss **!

It is the most bizarre and awkward thing I have seen in a long time, but it gets the job done in one easy scene.

In, perhaps, the weakest part of the film, Edward goes to the police who seem almost completely uninterested when he announces someone is trying to kill him.

In fact, the desk sergeant even goes so far as to make fun of him - something that surely never would happen in real life (or would it?). However, after going to the police, real attempts are indeed made on his life and thus eventually the detectives subsequently on the case are also duly convinced that Andes might be in danger after all (but is it already too late to save him?)

The acting and writing are decent and the film overall is highly watchable and decently directed, even though it was made on a budget back then.

Indeed, what I especially liked was the last ten minutes or so of the film as it kept me guessing and offered a lot of suspense.

In closing, the advantage of these compact, black-and-white B-movies is that they usually tell a no-frills story in straightforward fashion without any padding or detours.

A Life at Stake generally fits within these guidelines rather assuredly as quite a tricky little thriller and to my overly observant eye, at times it also plays out (and looks) like it was once considered as a stage play re: it’s dormitory sets and such. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:

Audio Commentary by professor and film scholar, Jason A. Ney
Full color insert booklet featuring A Career at Stake: Angela Lansbury and the Last Days of the B Noir; an essay by Jason A. Ney
Hollywood Hitch-hikers: Inside the Filmmakers, an original Ballyhoo Motion Picture documentary
New 4K transfer with archived film elements

Official Trailer

Official Purchase Link

www.TheFilmDetective.com





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