Mystery Street

Jan Sterling in Mystery Street (dir. John Sturges, 1950).

Ricardo Montalban.

The skull beneath Jan Sterling's skin.

Top three things that make this movie really good:

1. John Alton's cinematography. Check out the matching highlights on Sterling's décolletage and the little hula dancer on the lamp. Or Montalban in the handball court: way to work the deep focus.
2. Elsa Lanchester as the landlady, Mrs. Smerrling (yes, Smerrling). Maybe her best role ever. She's stupidly clever, charmingly slimy, farcically tragic. Her roomer Jackie, played by Betsy Blair, provides an effective foil with her closed-up savvy and streetwise dignity.
3. Jan Sterling. Even though she's got a small part, she's the soul--or ghost--of the film in a way. She makes walking downstairs into an artform. Side note: I was trying to think why she looked so familiar, and then I realized that Avon Books used a still of her and Marshall Thompson from this film for the cover of the 1999 paperback edition of James Ellroy's 1982 novel Clandestine.

No comments: