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3.9 out of 5 stars
The House On Telegraph Hill [DVD]
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on 22 June 2011
I have watched two supposedly top-rated films recently, and then I watched House On Telegraph Hill. While The City Sleeps was tedious in the extreme with a laughable murderer and the most monotonous plot about ambition in a newspaper office. Then there was Mildred Pierce, just a soap masquerading as a classic Film Noir. Finally there was this film which turned out to be a thoroughly enjoyable mystery with excellent acting and a tense plot. While it is no Kansas City Confidential or Asphalt Jungle, it merits higher ratings than some have given it. To write it off just because it showed American troops at Belsen is rather harsh - I was able to laugh it off in spite of the fact that my father was one of the first to arrive at the camp and it therefore should have given offence. Give this film a go, it is far better than some of the more highly rated "classics".
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2006
I'm the first to confess that I had never heard any of any of the actors starring in the 1951 Robert Wise gothic noir, The House on Telegraph Hill, but it doesn't matter, because all the actors are good, and combined with an extremely effective plot, the movie is a terrific tale of murder, deceit and assumed identities in post world war San Francisco.
As was the fashion with many noir films of the time, The House on Telegraph Hill is told in flashback with a voice over from the heroine. She tells of her house that is empty and is up for sale, and one immediately assumes that something terrible has happened. However, the narrative soon jumps to Germany at the end of the War, and we meet Victoria Kopwelska (Valentina Cortese) is a Polish woman imprisoned in Belsen.
With her husband and family dead, Victoria tells the kindly American commander Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan) that there's nothing for her back in Poland. Desperate to survive, Victoria learns that her best friend has family in the United States, and if they are ever freed, she promises to take Victoria to America with her. Her friend however, is killed shortly before American troops can liberate the camp.
With nowhere to go, Victoria hatches a scheme to steal her friend's papers and sail to America, where she learns now the godmother to a young boy Chris (Gordon Gebert), as well as the heir to a sizable fortune, and a gorgeously gothic house high atop Telegraph Hill, following the death of her "aunt." Ensconced in the ostensible mansion, Victoria, now dressing in glamorous frocks and drinking expensive champagne marries the boy's guardian Alan Spender (Richard Basehart), partly out of desperation and partly out of the need for security.
As Victoria becomes a "mother" to the boy, she clashes with his governess Margaret (Fay Baker) and coincidently reconnects with Marc whom she met a Belsen, now a studly a playboy type lawyer. All the adults are not as they seem: Marc has been making secret plans to get his hands on the money, and Victoria's arrival causes him to draft a new scheme. Victoria begins to believe that her new sweetheart is up to no good. And then there's the Margaret, the furtive outsider and whether her allegiances to Chris are all they seem.
The film is compelling, and tension-fuelled and beautifully shot in black and white. Cortese is especially good in one of her first American roles and as Victoria, she frantically tries to keep up her masquerade, yet through no fault of her own, she steadily becomes a victim of Alan's scheming.
Of particular note are the stunning location shots of San Francisco. The main house is just beautiful and the scenes when Victoria is playing baseball with Chris offer stunning views of San Francisco Bay. The House on Telegraph Hill ultimately serves as one of the better noir thrillers - there's a runaway car, poisoned orange juice, an enigmatic and jealous housekeeper and a false identity. It all makes for a gripping and entertaining film.
Victoria starts out as a victim, and although she schemes and lies her way into the house on Telegraph Hill, her ability to rise above the nefarious misdeeds enable her to achieve a kind of redemption for both her and Chris. Mike Leonard April 06.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
The House on Telegraph Hill is directed by Robert Wise and adapted for the screen by Elick Moll & Frank Partos from the novel The Frightened Child written by Dana Lyon. It stars Richard Baseheart, Valentina Cortese, William Lundigan & Fay Baker. Filmed on location primarily in the Telegraph Hill area of San Francisco, the film features photography by Lucien Ballard and a musical score directed by Alfred Newman.

Victoria Kowelska (Cortese) survives Belsen, but with her family killed by the Nazis she is all alone in the world with no identity. With her Belsen friend Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess) not surviving till liberation, Victoria decides to take on Karin`s identity to get to America. Under the guise of being Karin, Victoria winds up in San Francisco, living in a prime mansion, married to Dernakova trustee Alan Spender (Baseheart), mother to young Chris (Gordon Gebert) and heiress to the family fortune. But the House on Telegraph Hill is home to many secrets and unanswered questions: Can Alan be trusted? Why is Margaret (Baker) the housekeeper cold towards her? What really brought about the death of the recently deceased aunt? And can she even trust her only real friend, Major Marc Bennett (Lundigan)?

Director Robert Wise was one of the most versatile men to have ever worked in cinema. He pretty much covered all genres in his long and distinguished career, here for The House on Telegraph Hill, he blends gothic melodrama with film noir leanings. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Art Direction (Wheeler, DeCuir, Little & Fox), the film is certainly a lavish enough production, and for sure the story is well elaborated, but the picture as a whole is not all that it can be. For although it`s rich with an eerie ambiance that`s occasionally punctured by the promise of some sinister intervention, it never delivers on its promises. The suggestions and heightened tensions grab the attention, but the screenplay doesn`t allow the woman in danger scenario room to grow. None of which is helped by the fact that the film opens with Victoria narrating her flashback in past-tense voice over! It`s hardly a smart move by the makers that, is it? Perhaps it`s wrong to judge it as being part of the group that contains, Rebecca (1940), Suspicion (1941), Gaslight (1940/1944) and The Spiral Staircase (1946)? But fact remains it`s a long way from being half as good as any of those film`s.

However, there is still enough in Wise`s film to keep it above average and make it a safe recommendation to fans of the "woman-in-mansion-in-peril" sub-genre. The story is well played by the principal actors. Baseheart has to play his cards close to his chest in the tricky role that requires him to keep us guessing as to if he is good or bad. That he offers no clues is testament to the good performance Baseheart gives. Italian actress Cortese binds the film together with a layered performance that contains excellent visual acting, where nervous smiles and saddened eyes tell of guilt and longing that the screenplay has sadly not let the character expand upon. Baker is a touch underwritten, but does a neat line in icy cold veneer, while Lundigan offers up a nice counterpoint as the other man in Victoria`s life. Having Lucien Ballard on cinematography is a good move. Be it capturing the expansive colour vistas for Budd Boetticher & Sam Peckinpah in Westerns, or shooting in atmospherically stark black & white for the likes of John Brahm & Jacques Tourneur, Ballard showed himself to be a master photographer. Here in the brooding Dernakova mansion he deals in shadows and low lights to great tonal effect. Alfred Newman`s (a record 9 time Academy Award winner) score, aided by Sol Kaplan, is very dramatic and flows freely around the house and is at one with Victoria`s various emotional states.

The House on Telegraph Hill contains menacing undertones that are boosted by camera, music and acting. If only the writing was in tune with those things then we would be talking about a classic of its type. 6.5/10
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 28 July 2013
I have watched this film several times and feel that you will also.

The film is in black and white. Much of the story is narration. There are quite a few interesting actors who play quite a few interesting parts in this film. However sometimes it is fun to think where you have seen them before such as Richard Basehart that in other movies played Maximilian Robespierre and Adolf Hitler.

I would go into details of the story as that is why you will watch it. There is more to the movie than just the story. Basically Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortesa) loses husband and house in WWII. She befriends a fellow concentration camp person and exchanges identities for a better life after the war. She moves to America (The house on telegraph hill, San Francisco) to acquire her inheritance and everything looks cozy on the surface but she has the feeling that there is something sinister going on.

Watch as the story unfolds and see if you do not feel the same thing.
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on 14 August 2014
Excellent thriller, even if the plot does have some unlikely elements in it. The book which it came from was probably more believable. Valentina Cortese (still with us aged 90) was exceptionally good as the Polish woman taking up a dead woman's identity in order to escape to America from the concentration camp in which she's been incarcerated in at the end of the war, only to find that life's not that wonderful for her in San Francisco. Richard Basehart lives up to his stage name and William Lundigan is the good guy major she just happens to meet after having been released from the camp by him. It's a great thriller and, as in another film set in San Francisco, a fast car plays an exciting part.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2014
This is genuine entertainment - great plot twists and suspense - the location shots and the house are also stars in their own right.

Pull up a chair, turn out the lights and enjoy the ride.
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6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 8 June 2009
Made in the days when you could drive and park outside the village shop.

The town is too hilly to walk in (I once tried).

Great B&W shots of the Bay and town. Disturbing film with levels of evil and deceit. Poor start but gets much better.

Worth at least one viewing, more if you are into this genre bigtime.

Warning very annoying anti-piracy film at front.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2011
It's a good entertaining black & white film, not amazing but an enjoyable watch and I'm glad I bought it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 16 October 2014
classic film buy it.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 4 January 2015
as expected
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