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Customer reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
4.5 out of 5 stars

on 22 May 2016
Between 2010 and 2014 I was in the final days of my alcoholism and to pass the time of those drink sodden days I would watch films like I Wake Up Screaming. Needless to say when el pisto I thoroughly enjoyed watching these type of films. Now sober I have to say I am unlikely to venture much further in to this film genre.
What I can say about this flick is that the soundtrack is a constant annoyance and beggars belief. Betty Grable is a forties doll and is pleasing to look at as well as not being a bad performer. Victor Mature is not a bad actor either but the performance credit must go to Laird Cregar who's acting ability is second to none. If only this film was a tad more serious it would perhaps be more memorable.

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on 7 October 2014
Good quality film with top stars 0f their day in interesting story
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 27 February 2011
I Wake Up Screaming is one of the early entries in the film noir cycle that lays down noirish detective conventions. It's kicker is similar to that of Stranger On The Third Floor (1940), that of the chief suspect turning detective to try and prove innocence. Directed by Fox contract director H. Bruce Humberstone, the screenplay is by Dwight Taylor who adapts from Steve Fisher's novel of the same name. It stars Betty Grable (excellent in a rare dramatic role), Victor Mature, Carole Landis, Laird Cregar, William Gargan & Elisha Cook Jr. Shot on location in New York City, the piece sees Edward Cronjager (Canyon Passage/Desert Fury) take up cinematography duties.

The plot centres around cocky promoter Frankie "Botticelli" Christopher (Mature) who is accused of the murder of Vicky Lynn (Landis), a young actress he "discovered" as a waitress while out with his friends. Teaming up with Vicky's level headed sister Jill (Grable), Frankie finds the heat is on and it's getting hotter as the police, led by brooding heavy Ed Cornell (Cregar), are determined to put him in the electric chair, or "Hot Spot" (the film's original working title and a title held for the UK release of the film). Told in alternating flashbacks, nothing is ever quite what it seems, so with dark motives looming and deep suspicion enveloping our protagonists, the question is, just who will wake up screaming? It starts out rather briskly, jaunty music opens the piece up and one gets the feeling that this is very much going to be a standard Betty Grable picture. In fact when you consider that snatches of "Over The Rainbow" are used at frequent points in the movie, the makers have to be applauded for ultimately achieving the murky end product that I Wake Up Screaming becomes. There's very little "light" in the piece, what bright scenes there are serve as snippets of hope for our intrepid detectives, but outside of that it's deep shadows & dark interiors, perfectly given the high contrast treatment by the talented Cronjager.

This is very much Cregar's movie. A fine character actor before his sad and premature death, he had a hulking presence that dominated film's if given the material to work with. Here he gets a role to really unnerve the audience with. For although the character is watered down from the source novel, his Ed Cornell {apparently based on pulp novelist Cornell Woolrich) is creepy yet oddly garners sympathy too. Most of the best scenes involve the big man, I mean not many actors could dwarf Mature the way that Cregar does here, but the film is all the better for it as the characters persona's are unfolded in front of the audience. It helps of course that Humberstone & Cronjager get the best out of Cregar's shiftiness, semi-cloaking his face with window blind shadows or using his body shadow to act as another character bearing down on the latest character to get his penetrative questions. While one sequence as Frankie sweatily wakes from a feverish nightmare will linger in the conscious as much as Cregar effectively lingers in the movie.

With devilish twists and turns and a genuinely hard to figure out "who done it?" structure, I Wake Up Screaming is very much an essential movie for the Noir/Crime movie fan. And of course for those wishing to see just why Laird Cregar was so highly rated. 8/10
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I Wake Up Screaming is one of quite a few films that give the lie to the notion that Victor Mature couldn't act, with his likeable press agent very different in tone and delivery from many of his roles. But good as he is, it's Laird Cregar's creepy cop patiently and cheerfully (well, as cheerfully as he can manage) shadowing him and turning up everywhere like a bad penny who dominates the film - this is a guy who makes Hank Quinlan look like a poster boy for acceptable face of law enforcement without even raising so much as his voice. Terrific dialogue and a cast of likely suspects from Alan Mowbray to Elisha Cook Jr. actually gives this one a convincing whodunit element - you actually do start wondering if Mature could be guilty towards the end. Great stuff.

Unlike the French PAL DVD, which was mastered from a poor and damaged print, Fox's Region 1 NTSC DVD boasts a good transfer despite the odd jumpy frame and a fair extras package - audio commentary by film noir expert Eddie Mueller, trailer (minus original captions), stills gallery (including alternate poster designs from when Darryl F. Zanuck wanted to release it as Hot Spot because he hated the original title) and a lengthy deleted scene. Although this was intended to extend Betty Grable's range to dramatic roles, Zanuck played safe by shooting a five minute sequence that would have stopped the picture dead in its tracks showing Grable at work as a department store song plugger singing 'Daddy' to an elderly spinster who promptly buys a copy of the sheet music. Kino Lorber's Region A locked Blu-ray uses the same master as the US DVD release and carries most of the extras over, but omits the deleted scene.
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on 11 July 2006
The 1941 film I Wake Up Screaming reportedly set the standard for this type of noir thriller and the good news is that it gets everything right. Incorporating a perfect blend of noir elements and emphasizing the flashback story, the atmospheric lighting, and, most of all, the inherent moral ambiguities of the main protagonists, I Wake Up Screaming is a riveting suspense thriller from beginning to end.

The movie begins with as well-known New York sports promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) is hauled down to the New York City police headquarters, a prime suspect in the murder of beautiful café waitress Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis) who Frankie has since helped become a flourishing model and prospective actress.

Of course, Frankie denies having anything to do with the crime but the massive detective squad commander Ed Cornell (Laird Cregar) is totally convinced if his guilt. Meanwhile, in the adjoining room, Vicky's sister Jill (Betty Grable) is also being questioned. She recently came to New York to stay with Vicky as a type of live-in maid and she was the first person to discover the body and saw Frankie standing over it.

As both Jill and Frankie recount their stories - in brilliantly edited flashbacks - we are introduced to a number of supporting suspects: There's a manipulative and self-serving journalist Larry Evans (Allyn Joslyn), aging actor Robin Ray (Alan Mowbray), and the creepy, sinister switchboard operator William Harrison (Elisha Cook Jr.) who works in Vicky's hotel and who packs Jill's luggage up without being asked.

Jill and Frankie are soon released. Jill just wants to forget the whole thing and move on, but Frankie pursues Jill, all the while maintaining his innocence. The two are drawn together in the course of trying to sort out their lives and the murder of Vicky, and Jill's eventual recognition that Frankie is capable of truly loving a woman, and not just exploiting her. The couple soon realizes that Cornell - who is unremittingly in hunt of his prey - must be framing Frankie for the murder. But did Frankie really murder Vicky and if he didn't, who did?

The plot takes lots of mysterious twists and turns and the noose seems to tighten around Frankie, as the anecdotal proof seems to pile up. Jill begins to fall in love with him - in one instance, she even helps him escape from the law, which threatens her safely and making her an accessory to the crime - yet she's also plagued by uncertainty, she can never know for sure what the true motivation of Frankie really is.

Obviously, the real attraction of the movie is the wonderfully foreboding noir atmosphere, utilizing light and shadow to great effect, the director really manages to stretch as much as he can out of the dark goings on.

Betty Grable as Jill is quite a revelation in a dramatic role. Landis as Vicky is only briefly in the picture, but she makes a mark quickly and leaves a lasting impression, and Mature - an actor I don't normally like - is very imposing and impressive as Frankie, a desperate man on the run and fighting for his life. Mike Leonard July 06.
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on 20 September 2001
Betty Grable in a straight dramatic part for once, playing the sister of a murdered Carole Landis (who had more luck in 'Moon over Miami', but that's another story). Co-starring with one-time boyfriend Victor Mature. A good, wisecracking murder mystery, and one of my personal favourite films with a really sinister performance from 'Cornell' (I can't recall the actor's name). The real surprise is Betty's strong playing of the little sister part. It is unusual for Grable, of course, but well-written and well acted, with a surprisingly atmospheric score and good atmospheric settings. Oh, and look out for the gratutious display of Miss Grable's famous legs.
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VINE VOICEon 29 July 2006
I won't address the plot, which I believe is superb, as this has been done amply by others, but rather the DVD edition. The print is vastly superior to the video release which had a jump in it during the moment when Jill Lynn (Grable) makes her way over the rooftops of New York to evade the police, who mean to let her escape so they can follow her to Frankie Christopher (Mature), the man she loves. Given that this is one of the scenes I remember best, that spoiled it for me. There was jump in another place, if memory serves, but all these are gone.

Extras include a cut scene where Grable sings 'Daddy' to a customer at the store before going off to take her sister to the station (in fact Jill is dead). This is fascinating, as it presents a very different film. I'm glad the scene was cut, as it would have totally spoiled the film, a comic, musical-type fragment in a great noir film, which keeps up the suspense throughout. That said, it's always a joy to see and hear Betty Grable sing.

Also included are images of the original publicity and titles. At first the film was to be called 'Hot Spot', but they changed the name to that of the story on which it was based, fearing that 'Hot Spot' might be mistaken for a musical. The changes reveal a film that was tightened up, Betty Grable's musical supports (as far as I'm aware, she sang in every other 'serious' film she made) removed. Yet she's a real revelation. She could do drama without singing, dancing, or showing off her legs (she hated the lido scene, which should also have been cut as detracting from the picture).

All in all, this is an excellent edition of an excellent film. If you bought the video and liked it, even with the faults, buy this. It is superior to it in every way. You will not be disappointed.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 15 January 2016
EXCELLENT! I love "film noir" and this 1941 oldie but goldie is amongst the best! I liked every single minute of it and couldn't figure out the whole puzzle until the last moment. A recommended viewing. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

PRECISION: this is a Region 1 NTSC DVD. It will NOT play on Region 2 PAL European equipment.

Two young beautiful sisters soldier on through life in New York in early 40s: Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis) is a waitress and her sister Jill (Betty Grable) is a typist. One day a kind of slightly shady smooth operator named Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature), who is a promoter by profession, notices Vicky and bets with two of his friends, that he can quickly make her into a renowned model or maybe even more... Vicky trusts Christopher, but Jill is very suspicious about him and doesn't hide it... Then tragedy occurs and when the police shows the film really begins... I will not say anything more about the story.

This film impressed me for many reasons. The scenario is strong. The mystery is well preserved but once we know the truth, the whole thing makes perfect sense. Dialogs are brilliant, witty and even if it is a dark movie, frequently funny. The "film noir" unique atmosphere is as dense as clouds on Venus. Characters are well designed, each having his own story to tell. And the story is simply great!

This is a rather short film (82 minutes) but every single second was well used, without even a single one being wasted. Because of that the director was able to "pack" the things so well and so tightly, that you would never think that only 82 minutes passed! It is an impressive management of time!

This film is also a very succesful mixture of many genres: "film noir" of course but also some romantic comedy and a more classical whodunit - and somehow it all works together perfectly!

Actors did VERY well. Betty Grable doesn't sing or dance here as in most of her movies - but this being her, the director simply HAD TO arrange two scenes, in which she shows her legs...))) Victor Mature is equally excellent in a role very different from his later Biblical dramas... As for Carole Landis, she simply SHINES! But possibly the best performance is that of Laird Cregar, who plays a very menacing and very HUGE police detective, named Ed Cornell, a remarkably complex and interesting character.

Another thing which I appreciated a lot is the use of "Over the rainbow" theme from "Wizard of Oz". I would never believe that you can use such a sweet song as the main theme for a very dark "film noir", but here it was used wonderfully! Kudos for the idea!

I LOVED this film and it impressed me. I will absolutely keep the DVD for another viewing! ENJOY!
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on 31 May 2011
Sports promoter Victor Mature (Frankie) is in police custody being questioned over the murder of aspiring actress/model Carole Landis (Vicky). Landis lived with her sister Betty Grable (Jill) and she is also in custody being questioned. Through a mixture of flashbacks and real-time action, we learn the story of how events came to pass and whether or not the police can get the real killer. Things don't look good for Mature...

The cast are all good in this film. Carole Landis plays a ghastly wannabe plucked from nowhere and launched into a life of celebrity. If only her fate was part of the deal for those celebrities of today - think of Jordan, and all those other pointless people that invade our television sets. Betty Grable gives a solid performance - no singing or dancing - and is way better at it than that other musical star Doris Day who tried a straight role in "Midnight Lace" (1960) and fell flat on her face with it. But, it is Laird Cregar (Cornell) who excels as a creepy Police Chief Investigator.

The whole film is easy to watch with interesting scenes that drive you through the experience. One memorable sequence has creepy Cregar call in actor Alan Mowbray (Robin) and Mature as suspects, and force them to watch a film sized screen of Landis singing. It's a good song, and someone cracks...

There is also some funny dialogue to keep you amused. One example that stands out to me is when Mature says to Grable: "Who goes to a library at 9:00am?" Yep, I agree. Even when I was a University student, that never happened!

It's an interesting story that you can try to second guess but you won't get it right, especially the end twist. It is a shame that two of the main players - Laird Cregar and Carole Landis - didn't live much longer after this. Both were dead by the end of 1948. However, what on earth is the title about? There is no screaming in this film.....thank God.....
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on 12 March 2015
The title immediately catches the attention, then the film never lets up on the suspense during its’ 82 minute playing time. I Wake Up Screaming is a superb combination of dark shadows, low lighting, imaginative photography and expertly cut flashbacks creating an atmospheric backdrop to a series of top-line performances that never falter. It’s a masterwork, thanks to the photography (Edward Cronjager) and direction (Bruce Humberstone) that helped launch film noir.

Briefly, fight promoter Frankie Christopher (Victor Mature) is under suspicion her murdering aspiring actress Vicky Lynn (Carole Landis), his protégé, while her wary sister Jill (Betty Grable) eventually comes around to believe in his innocence. But threatening police detective Ed Cornell (a genuine heavyweight performance from the much underrated Laird Cregar) is determined to prove Christopher’s guilt. In the meantime other suspects, including Allyn Joslyn, Alan Mowbray and the always nervous Elisha Cook Jr., come to light and the film packs a genuine twist ending.

Beautifully restored, the DVD has a number of Special Features including soundtrack commentary by historian Eddie Muller, giving background information, and a 6 minute deletion scene, Betty Grable singing “Daddy” – a very wise decision to delete as it would jarred with the sombre, dark storyline. Just as enjoyable today as it was over 70 years ago.
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