MIDNIGHT LACE (David Miller, 1960)

Although Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho merits the title “1960’s most brilliant thriller” (not to mention, “Hollywood’s most brilliant black comedy ever”), David Miller’s Midnight Lace probably is that same year’s most entertaining thriller. Bedecked with more red herrings than any other mystery in existence, mostly to obscure its rather obvious solution as a whodunit, the film nevertheless delivers bona fide chills and thrills—a couple of sequences wreck the viewer in this regard—lavishly, glamorously packaged. Ross Hunter produced.
     Doris Day plays Kit, an American dame-in-distress who is apparently being stalked by some anonymous psycho who threatens to kill her. Married to British financier Tony Preston and living in London’s Grosvenor Square, Kit first encounters her nemesis in an impenetrable fog, where he is only a voice. This he remains in a series of harassing phone calls, which only Kit ever hears. Scotland Yard Inspector Byrnes wonders whether, feeling neglected by her workaholic spouse, Kit is making up the “unwanted” attention, or even imagining it.
     Russell Metty’s color cinematography, lovely, surpasses that for which he won an Oscar for the same year (Spartacus), and two performances, by Rex Harrison and Natasha Parry, as Kit’s Tony and neighbor Peggy, are expert. Myrna Loy charms as Kit’s loyal Aunt Bea, and Herbert Marshall and Roddy McDowall are also in the cast. Day herself is ghastly as Kit, at times laughably inept. At her best, she emotes rather than acts. It is doubtful that Day knew the difference. In her favor, though, is her striking appearance, especially in the titular black lace pajamas.
     Miller’s direction recalls his earlier Sudden Fear (1952) starring Joan Crawford. (Whereas Crawford was nominated for an Oscar, Day was nominated for a Golden Globe.)
      Midnight Lace is based on Janet Green’s play Matilda Shouted Fire.

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