Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Alternate Best Actor 1947: Claude Rains in The Unsuspected

Claude Rains did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Victor Grandison in The Unsuspected.

The Unsuspected, though fairly well directed by Michael Curtiz, is a very oddly written thriller about the murders surrounding a mystery radio host.

The Unsuspected is so strange as it opens with brutal murder of the radio host's secretary. The film than proceeds to introduce a set of characters all around the host, Rains's Victor Grandison. It seems like it's building a mystery with these introductions of the suspects and even with Rains's first scene where Victor delivers one of his shows. Rains's voice seems so fitting for such a broadcast with Rains emphasizing every word to give a real certain ominous quality and as he warns about the "unsuspected" is quite something. The thing is, despite this set up, there isn't a mystery. and I don't mean just because Claude Rains is in the film, he's actually not the initial killer in the film. It reveals quite early, rather nonchalantly, who the killer is, a handyman who works for Victor. It further reveals that Victor himself is complicit since he figures out who the killer is yet only blackmails the man to do his bidding. The film then proceeds to follow Victor as he seems to try to kill everyone within his extended family for a reason that is never quite specified past Rains's performance.

The film honestly probably wouldn't have worked at all with its main cast being, while not bad, rather forgettable for the most part, if it were not for old Claude Rains being in this role. Rains basically is there to carry the entirety of the film, and is the only thing that really comes across all that well past a few atmospheric shots crafted by Curtiz. This is kind of Rains unleashed in a way though. In his scenes where Victor is interacting with his family Rains brings such a suave command as you'd expect from him. There is just the right assurance and style to his work that is perfect for this type of patrician radio host. To be entirely truthful Rains frankly seemed like he should have hosted a mystery theater at some point given that he brings the right sort of dark elegance for "murder in a mansion" style stories. Rains, as the surface Victor is more than he should be, and by that I mean by his sheer charm he makes some fairly tepid material engaging. Rains offers a real energy to role that is much needed to the film, although he extends that to further than merely Claude Rains being his usual amazing self.

Rains extends that energy to actually make sense of his character, who really doesn't make any sense just by what is written in the film, and with a lesser actor in the role the character would have fallen wholly flat. The thing is Victor goes about wanting to murder everyone in ways in which he makes everyone else look like a suspect or makes their deaths look like suicides. Again this is never explained but Rains's explains it through his rather brilliant performance. Rains throughout these scenes very carefully portrays them to convey the motivation all wordlessly of course. Rains does not simply have Victor set up the murder, nor does he portrays the sort of psychotic behavior you may expect, although his behavior is obviously that as well. Rains in the murder scenes does not even show any malice instead he's quite chilling by portraying instead this fascination in Victor in the act itself. He does grant a creepy joy as he does this, with that energy he has in the role, but again Rains depicts very carefully as Victor getting a kick out of the whole process. Rains makes sense of the character by showing this host who has become with obsessed with doing what he has only ever spoken of, and also makes a rather entertaining villain while doing so. I won't say he quite saves the film, but it is relatively easy to get through due to his dutiful work as always.

51 comments:

Charles Heiston said...

Louis: Thoughts and ratings on the rest of the cast?

Still glad to see Claude Rains get another strong rating although in a sub-par film. He might come in last though.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Talking about wrestling, do you think the survivor series concept would be better if one member of each team had their jobs on the line, which I feel would add more to the drama.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: Yeah, i think that would be a great concept to add.

Luke Higham said...

Anyway, back to films. Glad to see another 4.5 for Rains, though I'm a bit pissed off that I underestimated Numasaki. I want to get 3 correct predictions on the bounce again.

Louis Morgan said...

Charles:

Cast - 2.5(Everyone kind of falls together in a mutual okayishness that in no way stand out in either a negative or positive fashion. They are all sort of fine.)

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: Thoughts on the following songs from South Park BLU-
Blame Canada
La Resistance
Up There
Mountain Town
Mountain Town (Reprise)
What Would Brian Boitano Do?

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Also, Louis, what do you reckon Aaron Paul has to do so that he doesn't misuse his massive talent?

RatedRStar said...

Good old Rains, I can remember the first ever question I asked you on this blog Louis, asking if you could review a Claude Rains performance, and then supporting 1939 came up =D.

Claude Rains will appear on this blog again, I have him down at the moment for 3 more performances.

RatedRStar said...

Calvin Law: Call Me by Your Name looks very intriguing, it looks surprisingly quite warming actually, without that much conflict, rather than tragic/depressing like most romance/dramas involving same sex relationships.

RatedRStar said...

Actually I have Rains down for 3 performances and one hidden bonus =D.

Charles Heiston said...

RatedRStar: Well don't spoil the surprise.

RatedRStar said...

I wont lol unless Louis suddenly picks the year soon lol but I am confident he will not hehehehe.

Calvin Law said...

RatedRStar: Agreed, I wasn't much anticipating it but the clips I've seen have actually been quite intriguing in how understated it seems.

Louis Morgan said...

Tahmeed:

Blame Canada - (I'll never understand why this was the song singled out from the film, maybe because the Academy didn't want to upset Disney by nominating one of the parodies? The song is purposefully abrasive in terms of his lyrics particularly in repetition of the chorus. The lyrics though are mildly amusing though but not standout in the regard. Its music is clever in fashioning this militant Sousa march for the hate song.)

La Resistance - (Love this song though as its fashioned as the "One Day More" for the film. It's a brilliant song with its particularly dramatic central vocals, and rousing style to its introduction. It then it quite honestly is a bit spine tingling with its medley of the other songs from the film, including the non-song I wish was a full song "Tomorrow Night". It melds them together perfectly building towards quite the epic climax.)

Up There - (Love this song as well. The first of the two Disney parodies on this list, but they are thematic parodies. The thing is though they really aren't even technically parodies in that they are very earnest actually particularly this song. There is a bit humor, such as the final high note here, but otherwise they are played straight. I should say effectively so as this can stand next to the actual Disney "Something more" songs. It is just impassioned in terms of its central vocals and uses a similair instrumentation style. That music would be worthy of a Disney film, and even this song would be except for who's the singer as well as just a few of those humorous touches.)

Mountain Town - (Again such a beautiful parody right with that sort of magical instrumental introduction to the song. Obviously most based around Belle, and not a bad match. In that it just effectively sets everything up in such a charming song with its creative upbeat vocals supplemented so well by its textured and downright wonderful score. Love this song as well and its so very Disneyesque reprise as well)

What Would Brian Boitano Do? - (A more overtly comedic song as named. I should note the cover version is kind of intolerable though, but I feel that way about all of Parker/Stone's rock band songs. Any who this is where the lyrics are the standout in their enjoyable ridiculousness. The music more than serves its purpose as essentially a heroic theme song, but as this musical goes certainly less impressive in that regard than the aforementioned songs.)

In regards to Aaron Paul it is hard to say, and I haven't seen the Path so I don't know how that is working for him. Now right at the end of Breaking Bad it seems like he took every role offered to him, understandable from his point of view even if they were not all great fits for his talent. Quite honestly television seems where he probably can shine the best where he can focus in on a single character playing to his strengths rather than numerous roles than may not, while still taking the right film roles that come along which I feel need to be substantial emotional roles for him to shine.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Your thoughts on The Mob Song from Beauty And The Beast.

Robert MacFarlane said...

I saw Get Out again. Even better on the second viewing. Really hoping this gets year-round Oscar buzz like Fury Road got.

Anonymous said...

Louis: What did you think of Hardcore Henry as a film?

Michael McCarthy said...

Hey guys, I'm back after not having internet for a while.

Louis: I'm really glad you took to One Wonderdul Sunday as much as you did. I'm surprised that people underestimated Numasaki though, the film is basically Akira Kurosawa doing Frank Capra, so how could you have not liked it?

Also, I'm not at all surprised that Blame Canada was te song chosen for the nomination. I understand your qualms about its musicality, but lyrically it's the song that best exemplifies the film's overarching theme, which is the way society relies on censorship to instill values in its children.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Ah yes that's what "Blame Canada" is based around. Any who the original is quite good. This one though I find that stands out the strongest are Gaston's specific solo rallying verses, with the introduction being particularly effective. The rest, is mostly broken up, to the point, purposefully repetitive but well done.

Anonymous:

The gimmick just doesn't quite sustain its run time. There are some great individual action sequences, but it unfortunately becomes tiresome in between those scenes. The story itself is purposefully simplistic, but even with that standard I wouldn't quite say it gets the job done. Sharlto Copley does his best to add humor and heart to the film, which does feel fairly hollow beyond him. Outside of Copley it doesn't quite find the right tone as it is often not fun enough, despite that being the specific intention of the film.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Robert Constanzo as Harvey Bullock and Joseph Bologna as Dan Turpin.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Louis: A few more thoughts on these songs-
Uncle You know what from South Park BLU
Kyle's Mom's a You know what from South Park BLU
Let it Go from Frozen
The titular song from Singin in the Rain
Always Look on the Bright Side of Life from Life of Brian

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

RatedRStar: Are there any more potential performances by Daniel Day Lewis or Al Pacino in your bonus rounds performance spreadsheet? If so, could you give the names of said films?

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: The Unbearable Lightness of Being for Day-Lewis is a certainty.

Luke Higham said...

Tahmeed: And Pacino in The Merchant Of Venice & maybe even Cruising. (Mark Kermode is a staunch apologist of it, so it'll be interesting to see what Louis thinks of it)

RatedRStar said...

Tahmeed Chowdhury: Daniel Day Lewis sadly only appears on my list one more time, and it is The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Mark Kermode of course loved Cruising, whereas Siskel and Ebert hated it, so I am very interested in seeing what Louis thinks of it, that might be a winning request soon if I hold back on Claude Rains, I also have Al Pacino down for Sea Of Love for 1989, as for The Merchant of Venice, 2004 lead actor is a very stacked lineup, so it might be difficult, as of this moment in time he is in my lineup.

I did take Al Pacino out of 1977 for Bobby Deerfield though.

RatedRStar said...

I dont think it matters though lol I could have 5 people in my lineup and none of them might get in so you never know lol.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: Have you seen Eden Lake and what did you think of Fassbender in it.

RatedRStar said...

I have seen it, Fassbender is in my 2008 lineup just about over Woody Harrelson but it will likely swap between them numerous times, It is a very rare and early role for Fassbender in that playing a man in danger, he is kinda limited in that he is in terrorised character from horror film mode but he is very effective in realising the pain, particularly in his final scene where he proposes just as he is dieing.

Luke Higham said...

RatedRStar: He'll likely get a strong 4 for it then.

RatedRStar said...

Luke: Probably, Harrelson I reckon will get a strong 4 as well which means one of them or neither of them will get reviewed, I think Transiberian and Eden Lake are solid films though.

Charles Heiston said...

Shame that Day-Lewis doesn't have more film roles. Maybe it's better him being picky so he can keep a clean slate, but i can't get enough of his acting.

Anonymous said...

Unbearable Lightness of Being is a clear 5 for Day-Lewis i think.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: He does have Nine to his name, but I'll give him a pass on that.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: His only sub-par role. But it wasn't mental pain inducing bad.

Luke Higham said...

Charles: Sure, it was only a minor miss, but it's the only performance of his that went under a 3 for me.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: Which actor would hold the most 5's for you?

Luke Higham said...

Charles: A tie between Olivier and Day-Lewis.

Charles Heiston said...

Luke: For me it's a tie between James Stewart and Day-Lewis. But Day-Lewis might break the tie soon.

Luke Higham said...

Is anyone looking forward to the Dragon Tattoo sequel at all. Without Mara, I'm not sure if I'll even watch it.

RatedRStar said...

It is widely regarded that Dragon Tattoo was better than the sequels that followed in terms of both the books and the Swedish films, so no I dont think it will be that great simply because I dont think the material is there.

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

Rewatched Drive for the umpteenth time tonight. Can't believe I'm saying this, but Bryan Cranston's work has grown on me to an extent that I prefer him over Albert Brooks now (they're both 5's for me). Isaac's work also held up.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on Carl Anderson in Jesus Christ Superstar?

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Are you gonna watch Iron Fist. :)

Calvin Law said...

Tahmeed: I prefer Cranston, Milligan and Gosling over Brooks tbh.

Anonymous: I'll try and find those thoughts for you.

Luke: Someone's gonna have to take the hit, reviews have not been good.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Constanzo - (Although I prefer if Harvey Bullock is more than just a goof. Nonetheless Constanzo's vocal performance seems to be exactly as Harvey Bullock should sound. When he's just the prat faller he's fine, but what I like most is when he does allow to show a bit more Constanzo does well to offer that in his vocal portrayal as well with a right honesty and even a decency within his roughness.)

Bologna - (Does a great job as the tough cop type. He importantly never overdoes the routine. He fulfills it in the right way in that he actually almost suggests as certain problematic intensity within it at times, and suggests there's more the character than we even seen.)

Tahmeed:

Uncle You know what - (Well given that the song is suppose to be particularly stupid, and in a way terrible, it is rather creative and entertaining display of such a thing to say the least.)

Kyle's Mom's a You know what - (Again quite the limited set of lyrics, and actually an adapted song from the original version from the show. In that adaptation though they certainly go all the way and is rather a testament to the intensely creative arrangements by Marc Shaiman. In this case doing so much by supplementing the central rather simplistic melody to create something rather special.)

Let it Go - (You know I hate backlash, there's nothing wrong with liking something because everyone else does or because it may be overexposed. Having said that the song was never my favorite from Frozen itself, but hey it's still a good song. I will say as transitions I don't this song has the most natural from the introduction, to the famous chorus, to the verse back to the chorus now with that high note, I've never loved. Nevertheless all those pieces are impressively realized and rather hard to forget.)

Singin in the Rain - (Technically repetitious in lyrics and music, as the instrumentation tends to be just a repetition of the melody as well. Technically quite simplistic in this as well, however such lovely and wonderful repetition that is.)

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life - (Such a fun and in context quite hilarious song. Relatively simplistic even its its more flamboyant moments, whistles, and the chorus are still relatively simple. Effectively so in every regard though and so fitting to the point of the song.)

Anonymous:

I'm sure I've covered him somewhere.

Luke:

As someone who thought Luke Cage was kind of terrible, I'm not too eager to see the Marvel show that has been critically panned. I may watch the first episode though just to see if it is truly that much worse.

Luke Higham said...

Calvin: Well, I'm not. Then again, Comic Book shows generally don't do it for me.

I wouldn't be surprised if he did watch the pilot episode though, just to see how bad it is.

Luke Higham said...

Had problems with my internet connection.

Louis Morgan said...

Quite honestly though Legion makes all the other comic books shows look rather terrible by comparison.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Have you watched any of Gotham at all.

Your quick thoughts on the songs from Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Yeah, the amount of bravery and weirdness behind Legion has made it hard for me to look at the MCU Netflix shows as seriously anymore.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

Saw a random episode once, that was more than enough for me.

Hold on those for the moment.