Wednesday 25 October 2023

Movie Review: The Fake (1953)

Genre: Crime Drama
Director: Godfrey Grayson
Starring: Dennis O'Keefe, Coleen Gray, Hugh Williams
Running Time: 80 minutes

Synopsis: American private detective Paul Mitchell (Dennis O'Keefe) is in London to solve the mystery of recently stolen Leonardo da Vinci paintings. After thwarting another attempted theft, he meets Tate Gallery employee Mary Mason (Colleen Gray) and suspects her disgruntled father Henry (John Laurie) is creating fakes to help conceal the thefts. Wealthy benefactor Sir Richard Aldingham (Hugh Williams), Tate director Randall (Gerald Case), and insurance investigator Smith (Guy Middleton) are all interested in the outcome of Mitchell's sleuthing.

What Works Well: This British production strides confidently into the haughty art world where criminal behaviour is more about ego than greed. Many of the scenes are filmed at the Tate, and director Godfrey Grayson commits to a nightime Noir aesthetic filled with shadows and stark light sources. O'Keefe is sturdy in the lead role, and the romance with Gray is pleasingly slow-to-blossom and carries the thorns of ulterior motives. The soundtrack playfully interprets Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition.

What Does Not Work As Well: Some of the plot details jump to conclusions, including rushed determinations of fakes and originals and Mitchell immediately suspecting Henry Mason's involvement. Some of the cloak and dagger scenes are unnecessarily drawn out, while in contrast the final act short-changes the antagonist perspectives as it hustles towards the ending.

Conclusion: Not a masterpiece, but still a fine picture.

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