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Alias Nick Beal
Noir, Favorite

1949 | 4:3 | BLACK & WHITE | Quality: Very Good - Print shows age in some places but very watchable.

Ray Milland

Thomas Mitchell



Righteous district attorney Joseph Foster (Thomas Mitchell) has one main goal in life: to rid his city of the gangsters infesting it. But his department is corrupt, and the local mob boss is always one step ahead. Just as it seems his big case is about to fall apart, a strange shadowy man, Nick Beal (Ray Milland), appears who offers key evidence to help Foster achieve his end - but he must sign a strange contract and also fudge the law a little to proceed. A hesitating Foster, desperate to work for the greater good and take down the mob boss, gives in and agrees. From that point on he's in Beal's pocket and becomes increasingly compromised in a sleazy world of easy money, sex with an alluring young woman (Audrey Totter), and the promise of success. Joseph Foster, once an idealistic bastion of virtue, soon becomes a self-loathing corrupt politician and adulterer. An old friend (George Macready) who happens to be a minister of God has a shocking take on who the mysterious "Nick Beal" might really be, and works to save Foster's soul - but is it too late?

An obscure gem that is touted by some as the quintessential Noir, Alias Nick Beal is a top-notch psychological masterpiece that puzzlingly continues to languish in limbo. For fans of the Noir genre or productions along the lines of The Twilight Zone, this one is not to be missed! John Farrow masterfully steers the picture, sustaining its spectral look and precarious tone throughout. The creepy and smug Milland is in total control of the game throughout the film - the game being politics and power over people. "Alias Nick Beal" is as good an abject lesson in the back room deals of American politics as you'll ever find - and with violent death thrown in, the seediness of it all becomes more apparent. Audrey Totter, too, excels in a part that tests her range, from a cat-fighter in a sleazy dive, to efficient political aide, to repentant cat's-paw. George Macready adds to the proceedings as a preacher who can't quite place Milland: `Have you ever had your portrait painted?' he gingerly inquires. `Yes - by Rembrandt in 1655," comes Milland's smug retort. The screenplay is by Jonathan Latimer, who also penned great films like The Glass Key, Nocturne, They Won't Believe Me, Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and The Big Clock. This morality tale about the seduction and fall of a promising politician echoes many themes we are wrestling with in the real world today. The splendid and satisfying Alias Nick Beal certainly deserves more than the obscurity that has come to enshroud it.

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