(Air Date: Week Of 6/1/94)
John Auer wound up directing a series of above average noir films for Republic between 1947 and 1954. But in 1935, he was responsible for an Erich Von Stroheim vehicle that was not only an intriguing adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Premature Burial", it also had a unique visual style that set it apart from virtually every other film made that year. The film was "The Crime of Dr. Crespi" and Auer made use of extreme close-ups to emphasise the internal chaos of the well-ordered world of an urban hospital.
Von Stroheim is Crespi, the chain-smoking head physician. Paul Guilfoyle has his eyes on the boss' job, but the real hero of the film is none other than Dwight Frye who fearlessly risks his life to fight the love-starved Crespi every step of the way. Except for the three leads and veteran character actor Joe Verdi in comic support, half the cast was unrecognisable to this film buff. A bright-eyed teenager playing a scene-stealing nurse seemed very familiar. Never again would Jeanne Kelly be so vivacious onscreen. By the time she married director Richard Brooks and used the screen name Jean Brooks, she would look sad and soulful in eight Tom Conway films (including five Falcon entries) and three Val Lewton movies. (Including "The Seventh Victim).
Von Stroheim's most memourable moments occur as he plans revenge on a romantic rival. Alone, he is reflective and carefully controlled, whenever his energetic co-stars Guilfoyle and Frye enter into his office, he barks out orders in his distinctive autocratic style. Auer was able to accomplish a great deal with his tiny Republic budget and "The Crime Of Dr. Crespi" is well worth a look through Sinister Cinema, Box 4369, Medford, Oregon 97501.
Copyright 1994 Monica Sullivan
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