When I joined Pale Writer’s Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon, I had never seen any of Barbara’s movies. Despite this, I had heard good things about her as an actress. For my submission, I knew I wanted to review one of Barbara’s films from the Breen Code Era. Because I signed up for this blogathon and the Clean Movie Month Blogathon, which both take place in July, I figured it’d be the best of both worlds! After searching through her filmography and seeing the choices of the other participants, I chose the 1947 picture Cry Wolf! It’s no secret that mysteries are a staple on 18 Cinema Lane. In fact, the most popular review on my blog is for Hailey Dean Mysteries: A Will to Kill, which has over a thousand views! When I read the synopsis for Cry Wolf, I knew I had to select it for the blogathons. It sounded like a mysterious retelling of Frankenstein, which would be an interesting concept to explore during the Breen Code Era. What did I think of this film? That mystery will be solved when you read this review!
Things I liked about the film:
The acting: As I said in the introduction, I had never seen any of Barbara’s films prior to Pale Writer’s blogathon. Therefore, I didn’t really know what to expect from her performance in Cry Wolf. What stood out in Barbara’s portrayal of Sandra was how confident she appeared! In every scene, she seemed sure of herself, never letting doubt stand in her way. When Sandra interacted with Julie, she took charge of the situation and displayed a sense of leadership. Speaking of Julie, I enjoyed seeing Geraldine Brooks’ portrayal of this character! It reminded me of the performances of Judy Garland, where she is presented as acting like her age with a dose of innocence. This can be seen when Julie meets Sandra for the first time. Errol Flynn’s performance was consistent throughout the film! His portrayal of Mark always had a sinister undertone, giving away the impression he was always enveloped in a cloud of suspicion. This character fit within the nature of the project because of what Errol brought, talent-wise, to the role.
The atmosphere: Because Cry Wolf is classified as a mystery film, the overall atmosphere is going to be darker in tone. It should also be noted that the atmosphere was consistent throughout the project. This was accomplished through a collection of film-making techniques. One of them is the use of shadows. In scenes that were more mysterious, shadows could be seen on the walls. The scene where Sandra and Julie make their initial trek to the lab is a great example of this, as the audience can see Sandra’s shadow on the wall in the hallway. Another technique involves music. Scenes with sinister undertones featured orchestral tunes that sounded ominous. It really matched the tone the movie’s creative team was striving for!
The interior design: The majority of this story takes place inside the Caldwell-Demarest family home, with the interior design effectively matching the wealth of the family. A noticeable design choice was the wrap around balcony overlooking the foyer. Some homes feature one balcony section that looks down on a particular room. The fact that the balcony in Cry Wolf was larger than one section showcases how expansive this space is. Wood was a prominent material found in the interior design. It not only served as wall paneling; it was also used as detailed crown molding in the library. Even though the kitchen was only in one scene, the detailed art on the walls made it a memorable space. The overall design within this location enhanced the visual appeal of the house!
What I didn’t like about the film:
Julie’s relationship with Ronnie: One of the components of Julie’s subplot involved a secret relationship with a young man named Ronnie. This part of her story was meant to correlate with her feelings of isolation and entrapment. However, it seemed like it was there for the sake of being there. The relationship didn’t lead anywhere and Ronnie was never mentioned again after Julie’s interaction with him while horse-riding. It makes wonder why it was included in the story at all?
Mark’s attempts to charm Sandra: There were a few moments in Cry Wolf where Mark attempts to charm Sandra. To me, these attempts felt out of character for him. Throughout the film, Mark uses influence and control to gain power. When it comes to Sandra, however, he ends up overstepping boundaries. During one conversation, Mark kisses Sandra. She responds appropriately by expressing displeasure and slapping him in the face. It’s as if he completely forgot that Sandra was still mourning her husband.
An unclear resolution: I’m not going to spoil Cry Wolf if you haven’t seen it. But I will say I found the mystery’s resolution to be unclear. The film presents one idea of what happened. Several scenes later, an unreliable source shares another idea of the mystery’s outcome. As the film wraps up, the resolution is not given any explanations. However, I’m not sure if this creative decision was intentional.
My overall impression:
I’m glad I chose Cry Wolf as my introduction to Barbara Stanwyck’s filmography! It was a good film that allowed me to stay invested from start to finish! This was helped by the inclusion of solid acting performances, a consistent atmosphere, and great interior design. While these are components that strengthened the project, the movie also had flaws that held it back from being better. One of these flaws is an unclear resolution, which was unexplained by the end of the film. But, as I said in my review, this choice might have been intentional. Like I said about Goodbye, Mr. Chips and The Wife of Monte Cristo, Cry Wolf is a Breen Code friendly film. However, there was one aspect I was surprised to see. In one scene, a deceased body was shown on screen. As I said in my review of The Wife of Monte Cristo, a death would usually be implied.
Overall score: 7.9 out of 10
Have you seen any of Barbara Stanwyck’s movies? If so, which one is your favorite? Let me know in the comment section!
Have fun at the movies!
Click here to join our monthlong celebration of nothing but American Breen Era (1934-1954) movies in honor of the Production Code Administration’s anniversary!
Follow us to bring back the Code and save the arts in America!