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I Wake Up Screaming

I Wake Up Screaming
A love triangle and a murder are the primary ingredients of a slightly dated, but still effective little film noir from 1941 called I Wake Up Screaming.

Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) is a slick sports promotor who meets a pretty young waitress named Vicky (Carole Landis), who lives with her over protective sister, Jill (Betty Grable). Frankie sees star potential in Vicky and decides groom her for stardom, completely oblivious to the fact that while Framkie has been showering Vicky with all his attention, Jill has developed feeling for him. Vicky even mentions it one day in front of Frankie and Jill, who vehemently denies it. A short time later, Vicky is found murdered and a hard-nosed police inspector named Cornell is convinced that Frankie did it.

Dwight Taylor's screenplay is based on a novel by Steve Fisher that features a lot of cliched dialogue and outdated police procedures, but the set up of the mystery is first rate. The film actually opens with Frankie and Jill being brought in for questioning about the murder as the story leading up to Vicky's death unfolds in front of the viewer through flashbacks of several different actors. And even when we get to the point where Vicky's body is discovered, all evidence pointing to Frankie and the movie is not even half over, we know that Frankie being the murderer is just too easy, but we really don't know who did it and the road to the answer leads to a terrific twist we don't see coming.

Bruce Humberstone's direction is dark and atmospheric and provides motivations for the actors that keep the killer's identity a surprise until we're supposed to know. There are red herring thrown in to throw us off the scent, but this one definitely keeps the viewer guessing until the climax.

Victor Mature's slick performance as Frankie appropriately anchors the proceedings and Betty Grable is surprisingly effective in a rare non musical role as Jill. Carole Landis is lovely as Jill and Laird Cregar is totally creepy as Cornell. Loved the "Over the Rainbow" theme in Cyril Mockridge's music, which really served the story. Yes, it has dated elements, but purely as a murder mystery, it still holds up. Remade in 1953 as Vicki.