Weekend Film Recommendation: The Web

One of Vincent Price’s best non-horror roles is in the 1947 film noir “The Web”

1947-ella-raines-and-vincent-price-in-the-web-via-a-certain-cinemaWhen I was in graduate school, I shared an apartment with a fellow student who was also a film buff. One night we were watching television and saw a commercial announcing that our cable provider would soon start carrying a channel called “American Movie Classics”. We sat there mesmerized as the advertisement trumpeted that the new service would start with a series of films with Barbara Stanwyck, followed by a run of Cary Grant movies, and then a Gary Cooper retrospective.

We sat in stunned, dry-mouthed silence for a moment, until I said “Well, we’ve got to make a decision: do we cancel cable or drop out of graduate school so that we have more time for old movies?”.

My roommate responded immediately: “Totally drop out of graduate school”.

We resisted somehow, despite becoming AMC addicts and later TCM addicts. One joy of these channels was re-watching old favorites, but a distinct pleasure was viewing a quality film that had somehow been lost — not generally remembered, not listed in most film guides, but still able to entertain an audience if ever it were rediscovered. One such movie with which I had the latter experience is this week’s film recommendation: The Web.

This 1947 film, which is also shown under the title Black Velvet, is a nicely crafted noir featuring Edmond O’Brien as a dedicated, hard-charging young lawyer named Bob Regan. Regan falls under the spell of wealthy corporate powerhouse Andrew Colby (Vincent Price) and his sultry secretary/mistress Noel Farady (Ella Raines). He begins working for Colby on what seems a simple assignment, but it quickly takes a violent turn that draws him into a web of murder, intrigue and lies. He is meanwhile attracted to Noel, and she seems to reciprocate, but only to a point because Colby’s hold over her is strong. Meanwhile, hard-nosed police lieutenant D’Amico (William Bendix) watches over the developments with suspicion, and wavers between acting like Regan’s friend and his enemy.

Many people only know Vincent Price as “the King of the Grand Guignol”, but he had a fine career in Hollywood before all those scary movies. Otto Preminger’s excellent Laura is probably Price’s most widely-respected non-horror role, but he’s even better here: Silky smooth, handsome, assured and at the same time devious and dangerous.

Ella Raines is also at the top of her game, exuding a Bacall-esque sassy/tough sexuality as she is torn between the two leading men. O’Brien gives an appealing and believable performance as a man in way over his head, and Bendix plays the tough cop memorably as a sort of wiser older brother (and for once in a film noir, the cops are actually smarter than the hero!).

To be an all-time noir classic, The Web would have needed slightly tighter pacing and more quotable lines of dialogue, but it’s still an entertaining, well-made film that with the aid of cable classic movie channels (God Bless ’em) has been re-discovered by a new generation of viewers. Make yourself one of them.

p.s. Interested in a different sort of film? Check out this list of prior RBC recommendations.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

4 thoughts on “Weekend Film Recommendation: The Web”

  1. Thanks!!! I’ve never heard of this one. “Laura” is a favorite. I will keep an eye out. TCM is the only real reason to have cable/satellite telly.

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