House on Telegraph Hill, The (1951)

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951), directed by Robert Wise.

The survivor of a concentration camp switches identity with her best friend, now dead, and finds her way to San Francisco where she now has wealth and even a child sent away before the war. She marries the lawyer who has been taking care of things. But wait: who's conning who? That husband is acting sinister... or is it just her imagination?

It's pretty slow moving, but picks up in the second half. I review this one not because it is a great film, but because of the talent involved: Robert Wise directing, Sol Kaplan score, Lucien Ballard photography.

The leads were not major stars:

On the DVD commentary track, author Eddie Muller points out that this often appears on film noir lists, but is actually in the "women in peril" genre, like Hitchcock's Rebecca (1940) and Suspicion (1941), both of which it quotes pretty freely.

He praises Robert Wise's editing and the art design and he likes the actors. A San Francisco native, he loves the rich location shooting, sites specifically chosen not to be the familiar post card and travel poster views. He says that's real furniture in the mansion, not studio props.

He also gives valuable notes on how the movie could have been improved. The screenplay needs firming up in many respects.

Finally, he makes this critique of Robert Wise: the director could extract maximum value from any script he had, but in terms of bringing additional heat or passion to the project, he always erred on the side of caution.

Wise did not care much for the story, but enjoyed working with Cortese. As did Basehart: they were married shortly after.