The Price of Fear (1956) Poster

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Jessica Warren I Love You.
hitchcockthelegend21 October 2017
The Price of Fear is directed by Abner Biberman and adapted to screenplay by Robert Tallman from a story by Dick Irving Hyland. It stars Merle Oberon, Lex barker, Charles Drake and Warren Stevens. Music is by Heinz Roemheld and cinematography by Irving Glassberg.

Little seen or just forgotten these days, The Price of Fear is actually a rather tight and entertaining piece of film noir film making. Rising above some production limitations, pic is strong on characterisations and it looks just splendid. Story essentially finds Barker as an innocent man out to prove he didn't kill two people in two separate incidents!, while Oberon slips into femme fatale clothes as a love interest who's trying to avoid being found out for one of the killings Barker is under scrutiny for.

Narrative is deliciously twisty in how characters react and perform during the play. Into the mix is an intrepid detective, smooth talking villain, a blackmailing wife, a witness under duress and even a train sick canine! Old noir faithfuls coincidence and fate play their big hands, as does some narration drive. The look is minus chiaroscuro but the nighttime scenes are impressive enough, shiny streets and bulbous lights excellently photographed by Glassberg, while Biberman plays with frame tilts and interesting framing of the lady characters.

There's been some complaints about cast performances, but all are fine here. OK, so it lacks in viper femininity and laconic masculine as per noir classics previously, but nothing here hurts the piece. Solid as a rock is this, it even has the courage of its convictions to provide a genuine surprise ending. Where the main players catch a train to noirville, the termination point worth waiting for. 7/10
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Fairly solid, well-polished thriller and star vehicle
beyondtheforest20 June 2012
Merle Oberon stars as a beautiful, glamorous business woman who is motivated by fear to do some despicable things. Guilty of a hit-and-run car accident, she must frame the man she loves in order to get away with murder! Along the way, she becomes involved with gangsters and detectives, and becomes ever more deeply mired in a chain of incriminating events. This is the type of role we are used to seeing Barbara Stanwyck fill, and Oberon does a beautiful job, but plays it her own way -- not as a tough dame, but as gracefully refined and secretly cunning. Sadly, this would be one of Oberon's last starring films. Clearly, Hollywood stopped offering her work too soon, but those were the days when glamorous female stars were phased out after 40.

This film is now available on DVD as part of the TCM Vault Collection's "Women in Danger: 1950s Thrillers" Collection (all Universal films). The quality is very good and this is a set worth adding to your collection.
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Film wanders between soap opera and mystery;Barker is good
django-1929 August 2000
Like a lot of Universal-International's 1950s output, THE PRICE OF FEAR is a studio-bound soap opera that borders on kitsch, but within that soap opera, star Lex Barker and an exciting plot in the Hitchcock vein struggle to make the film something better. Barker plays the co-owner of a racetrack where the mob is trying to muscle in. One night, he happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong people and his life begins unravelling and he goes on the run. Unfortunately, Merle Oberon enters the picture. I don't know if Ms. Oberon had something else on her mind while making this picture, but she seems to be posing for still photographs throughout the film. Oh, she's gorgeous! glamorous! stunning! But her posing and gown-modeling belongs in a 1920s Gloria Swanson vehincle--or maybe a PARODY of a 1920s Swanson vehicle! It's hard to believe that a savvy character, such as the racetrack owner played by Barker, would fall in love with such a cipher as Oberon's character. If you can forget the soap-opera elements of the plot, there's a good mystery here...and the climax and ending are genuinely surprising. However, only devoted Barker fans should try to find this film.
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A fine lady getting caught up with a trap of destiny
clanciai25 November 2018
Merle Oberon is always worth experiencing in any circumstances, and here they are rather confused. She is a top member of society, a lady above reproach, who happens to a car accident: an old man with a dog loses control of his dog and walks out into the street without seeing her coming, she hits him, she wants to report it immediately to the police taking responsibility at once, but as she already is starting to talk in a phone booth, her car is stolen. Instead she reports her car stolen. That's how it begins.

It appears she wasn't quite satisfied with the film herself, because after this film she almost never appeared on screen again - just a few TV shows, some minor parts now and then, while she still had a long life ahead and never lost her beauty.

It certainly isn't one of the best noirs, rather pale for a noir, and the script is too muddled up with improbabilities. How could she at all have anything to do with those rude gangsters, that later gets her involved, the last thing she wants? She blames her weakness, and that is very womanish, of course, so there is much in this film to discuss - Lex Barker isn't very attractive either, so their love business isn't very convincing. Anyone could love her, but he is rather wooden, while the other guy, Warren Stevens, is simply impossible in his rudeness.

It's worth seeing for her sake, you will remember her, but you will forget the picture.
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Decent for what it is but I think they could have did some better casting
nomoons1116 January 2013
Warning: Spoilers
This is one of those films where the lead was way past her prime. Merle Oberon may have been a "fair" actress back in the 30's and 40's but she was an after thought in this one.

A highly successful lady accidentally hits a man and kills him. Problem is, she was drunk. A racetrack owner who is part owner, is being pursued by his new co-owner finds her car and steals it. She's in the process of calling the police to tell them about the accident but sees an opportunity and tells them instead...her car was stolen. What he doesn't know is his old partner was killed and they've set him up to take the fall. Basically, 2 deaths attributed to him. Between all the basics of this we have a really punk of a bad guy and a weaselly stooge who does his dirty work. It's an obvious frame throughout.

The film itself is not bad for what it is but the casting imo was just not that great. Merle Oberon was probably offered this cause no one else in the cast was a star. I never understood how she became a star in her day. She did a few romantic comedies early on I thought were pretty good but she's so average in dramas and everything else. This one is no different. Another issue is Lex Barker. When you see him you'll know why he's in it. He's good looking and was hunk material. His acting is a case of the "wooden" kind. You could probably tell he wasn't Julliard trained. The others all play the villain and good guy roles fairly solid but it's not enough. A definite case of the side players out-playing the leads.

This is classified as a noir and I would say that it is. It has really great lighting and the "feel" of a noir. Ultimately it feels like a "50's" noir and not a 40's one. All in all, not a bad film. Just don't think your gonna add this one to an "all time greatest" noir list....cause that ain't gonna happen.
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The ending makes this film so brilliant.
MartinHafer18 January 2019
"The Price of Fear" is a movie that has quite a few film noir sensibilities....though I am sure many purists would consider it just a crime film because it lacks the slick cinematography and lighting of a noir classic. Nevertheless, it's an awfully good film....and the ending really, really worked great for me.

Dave (Lex Barker) is a nice guy. But like so many nice guys in noir films, he's behind the eightball. A crook hates him and decides to frame him for murdering a man he'd been seen threatening. In addition, a selfish lady (Merle Oberon) runs over an old man and instead of staying to talk to the police, she ran and reported her car stolen. Soon, Dave is picked up for BOTH crimes. He could NOT have done the hit-and-run robbery AND shot a man across town at the same time. But it sure looks like they'll be able to pin at least one of them on him unless he can somehow prove his innocence.

Barker and Oberon were were all the actors. But to me, the star were the writers. They created a very interesting story with great characters and a finale that leaves you breathless. No sentimental crap here...just gritty folks and a grittier ending. Well worth seeing.
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"Nobody loves a patsy"
boblipton25 September 2019
Businesswoman Merle Oberon runs over an old man and speeds off. She has second thoughts and stops at a phone booth. After she gets the police, Lex Barker, on the run from gangsters who are about to kill his partner, spots it, hops in and zooms off. Miss Oberon reports the car stolen. Buddy/police Lieutenant Charles Drake thinks there's something wrong with the set-up.

There's something about this sort of 1950s drama that strikes me as not impossible, but brittle. So many of the lines are delivered without any emotional weight to them, as if the character is thinking about his words, then considering why he has chosen those words, until all feeling has been rendered out out them. Perhaps it's the pace of the dialogue that I find so unappealing. In the late 1930s, the pace of dialogue in the movies sped up, and the audience was given the impression of a stream of consciousness. Certainly Joseph Gershenson's two bars of theme that rise up majestically from a large orchestra overwhelm the performances instead of accentuating them.
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The rare double drame-up!
ripplinbuckethead2 September 2019
After being framed for the murder of an ex-partner in a dog racing track, Dave Barrett (Lex Barker) steals a car from a woman named Jessica Warren (Merle Oberon), who is in a phonebooth. He doesn't know that she is about to call the police to tell them that a man has been the victim of a her car, which she was driving at the time. She sees Barrett steal her car, then suddenly decides to let him take the fall for the accident. Now it's a double frame-up for Barrett!

This movie explores a lot of different themes, most of all fear; fear of getting caught, fear of the unknown, fear of failure, etc... It's a good title, as it covers many of the motivations for the characters. I liked how it keeps you guessing as to how Barrett and Warren will deal with ever-changing situations, which not only keep the movie rolling along, but makes it fairly deep. On top of all that, you have the criminal and police element making things difficult for all of them.

I found that the story wandered a bit, but is pretty tight overall. The performances were understated and natural. It was compelling and had a lot of nice surprises in it. A good noir-ish crime drama. Wouldn't have minded seeing more of Gia Scala in it, but despite that, I'd see it again someday.
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As the wheel crashes!
mark.waltz28 August 2018
Warning: Spoilers
Seemingly having it all, the beautiful investment adviser Merle Oberon finds that making the wrong decision can bring her entire world crashing down, all because of chance and a bit of bubbly. Obviously happily tipsy when she walks out of a glamorous restaurant, Oberon is simply handed the keys to her expensive car by the parking attendant and drives on her merry way. She is completely unaware of her inability to drive at that moment and slams into an elderly man in the street, driving off. While making an attempt to call the police to report the incident, the sobered up Oberon suddenly changes her tune when her car is stolen right in front of her eyes, leading to the arrest of dog track partner Lex Barker for both the theft and the hit and run. But Barker can actually provide an alibi for where he was at when the hit and run took place which makes him confront Oberon over why she lied. This leads her deeper and deeper into the criminal world as Barker is a suspect in the murder of his partner who was killed by the mob, and her desire to hide her lies even more drags her deeper into hell and leads to a tense stand-off in the baggage compartment on a train as she tries to escape the authorities, hoping Barker will join her.

A strange, convoluted film noir, this was a rare instance to see Oberon play a very unsympathetic character. You get to see her running her business, and she's definitely a very commanding business woman, but her ruthlessness is not in business; It is protecting her reputation and trying desperately to get out of a mess that even the most clever of attorneys couldn't help her get out of. Oberon, a top-notch leading lady in the 1930's and 40's, was basically playing glamorous supporting parts ("Deep in My Heart", "Desiree"), but this last leading lady part for her (until 1963's "Of Love and Desire") was unique in the aspect of being quite different in tone for her. It is obvious that her character is not normally as malevolent as she becomes here, but the desperation that her character starts to feel pushes her up against the wall which makes many of her actions understandable if not giving her sympathy. Barker, himself, isn't playing an upstanding citizen either, and other characters in the film seem to be more interested in using their involvement in this situation to their financial advantage. Issues with the convoluted script and bizarre plot twists weaken this, especially with the baggage compartment finale which goes on too long.
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Make that 6.5!
JohnHowardReid18 February 2018
Warning: Spoilers
It always surprised me how many people used to come late for the pictures, particularly in the suburbs where two movies, plus a newsreel was always obligatory.

For "The Price of Fear", both writer and director were well aware of that fact, so they didn't bother to put any effort at all into the first reel - or the second reel either. The dialogue can only be described as totally uninteresting chatter which the actors delivered without any inflections at all.

Suddenly, around feel three, all this inept and thoroughly boring clap=trap was thrown away and the story started to get into stride, And once into stride, the writing, the direction and the acting improved by leaps and bounds.

In fact, the only aspect of the movie that was consistently good from first to last, was Irving Glassberg's photography.
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I Wanted to Like It
arfdawg-119 November 2019
I really did. But it is just way too slow. Where's the action? For film noir to work there has to be some conflict and drama. This film is a lot of talking. A bit of action, but mostly talking and talking.
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