Alias Nick Beal
Drama / Fantasy / Film-Noir / Mystery / Thriller
Alias Nick Beal
Drama / Fantasy / Film-Noir / Mystery / Thriller
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Righteous district attorney Joseph Foster's main goal in life is to rid his city of the gangsters infesting it. In order to be even more efficient in his war against crime he plans to run for governor. One day he meets a strange, shadowy man, Nick Beal, who offers to help him to achieve his end. Beal convinces hesitating Foster by dint of easy money, easy sex with an alluring young woman and the promise of easy success. Joseph Foster soon becomes an influential politician but a corrupt one. A minister of God manages to show him that he has been the plaything of the so-called Nick Beal, who might be "Old Nick" , that is to say Satan himself. Foster then decides to resign and to become an honest man again. —Guy Bellinger.
Uploaded By: FREEMAN
Aug 15, 2021 at 04:22 PM
grade Movie Reviews
Mr. Milland's Longevity
Ray Milland managed to do something that few critics were ever willing to admire him for. He was a good looking man of Welsh (not English) ancestry, who could play members of the English upper class. But he was always willing to stretch a bit more than other similar actors. For one thing, he could play villains. Even in his early career he was frequently cast as a weakling or a gigolo (as in "We're Not Dressing"). He was willing to experiment with comic roles as well as straight drama. The result was that from 1942 to 1951 or so Milland was a Hollywood star. He played the leads in films as various as "Reap the Wild Wind", "The Major and the Minor", "The Ministry of Fear", "The Big Clock", "The Lost Weekend", "Golden Earings", and "Alias Nick Beal". While some of his films were comedies (such as "The Major and the Minor" and "Skylark") quite a number were dramas or even melodramas. And some of his characters skirt the edge of acceptable behavior. He is a man who has just been released for committing a mercy killing of his wife in "The Ministry of Fear". Although he is basically innocent, he is a flirtatious type in "The Big Clock". Even in Wilder's "The Major and The Minor" there is a moment when Milland, smiling at the thought of what a real "knockout" "Sue-sue Applegate" (actually grown-up Ginger Rogers) is, suddenly gets a really pained look in his face - he does not like that he's thinking lascivious thoughts about a child.His deserved "Oscar" for "The Lost Weekend" is another example of this dark side - he is supposed to be a writer, but he is a poseur with a serious drinking problem. In fact, he contemplates suicide at the conclusion of the film, only to be stopped by Jane Wyman.In "Alias Nick Beal" he played his most sinister part (except possibly Tony Wendice in "Dial "M" For Murder"). Here he played Satan, and he is in total control of the game throughout of the movie - the game being politics and power over people. On one level, if one forgets the supernatural elements, "Alias Nick Beal" is as good an abject lesson in the back room deals of American politics as the comedies "The Senator Was Indiscreet" or Preston Sturges' "The Great McGinty". Only here, with violent death thrown in, the seediness of it all becomes more apparent. Possibly the best moment is when the honest, and mostly honorable, Thomas Mitchell is forced to shake hands with Fred Clark, the most notorious political boss in the state. On the other level is the serious attempt to keep some religious allegory in, with people like George Macready (here in a rare good guy part) noting that Beal resembles an ancient picture of the Devil, and that "Los islas de las almas perditas" where Beal comes from means, "The Island of Lost Souls". Religion does play a crucial role in the film, including it's completion.Leslie Halliwell made the observation that after this film none of the stars ever did as well again. This is not true. Milland did play the evil Tony Wendice, and Macready went on to the mad French general in "Paths of Glory". But more important, Milland kept showing his ability to stretch in the remaining decades of his life. Besides writing his interesting autobiography "Wide Eyed in Babylon", he directed several films, he appeared in several televisions series (one of the few stars who did not fear the new medium - and he was rewarded here too, for in the 1970s and 1980s he was still appearing while many contemporaries retired). Finally he capped his career as the snobbish father in "Love Story". Actually his career is an example of just what can be accomplished if a person is not ashamed to jettison useless or outdated personalities for new ones.
In this dark, half-forgotten gem, His Satanic Majesty delves into municipal politics
Rarely spotted on TV even by midweek insomniacs, brushed aside even by aficionados of the Hollywood past, Alias Nick Beal is a top-notch movie that puzzlingly languishes in limbo. It's an unusual but successful cross of the supernatural fantasy films popular in the forties like Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, The Devil and Daniel Webster with the grittier conflicts of the big-city exposés in film noir.Thomas Mitchell, a progressive and muckraking mayor, won't rest easy until he eradicates corruption from his unnamed town. But incriminating ledgers detailing the graft of a rival political-machine boss have been burned. Mitchell gets a call asking for a mysterious meeting at a waterfront bar, The China Coast Café, where, like a wraith out of the harbor fogs, materializes Ray Milland. Ordering Barbados rum (with its voodooish connotations), he introduces himself as Nick Beal, which seems to be the short Americanization of Beelzebub. He offers Mitchell the pristine ledgers, from which the mayor can nail down a conviction and propel himself to the governor's mansion; trouble is, now he's stuck with the sinister Beal.Unflappable in his suavity, Milland stays pitchfork-perfect in his scheme to strip Mitchell of his honesty and ideals. He enlists the help of bar floozie Audrey Totter, who turns herself into Mitchell's Gal Friday and diverts his affections from his wife (and conscience) Geraldine Wall. And every time Mitchell thinks he's compromised his principles for the last time or struck his final dirty bargain, in slithers Milland with another twist of the knife, a brand-new temptation. Finally elected to the statehouse, Mitchell finds that he's sold his soul to the very forces that he had always fought...Alias Nick Beal has to be, hands down, the most sure-footed movie John Farrow ever directed; he never slips in sustaining its spectral look or precarious tone. Totter, too, excels in a part that tests her range, from a cat-fighter in a sleazy dive through efficient political aide to repentant cat's-paw. This may be her most fetching performance, particularly in her drunken exchange with a bartender: `What time is it?' `You just asked me that.' `I didn't ask you what I just asked you, I asked you what time it is.' Mitchell and Milland can't be faulted at the top of a cast that includes George Macready as a preacher who can't quite place Milland: `Have you ever had your portrait painted?' he gingerly inquires. `Yes by Rembrandt in 1655," comes the smug retort. (The screenplay is by Jonathan Latimer, who also penned The Glass Key, Nocturne, They Won't Believe Me, Night Has A Thousand Eyes, and The Big Clock.) This morality tale about the seduction and fall of a promising politician echoes themes explored in the same year's All The King's Men but adds a fanciful metaphysical dimension. That may look like a cop-out, a way to avoid tackling the issues realistically, but the metaphysics can be seen as metaphorical Satan can be a symbol (and as Macready remarks, maybe he knows it's the twentieth century, too). Whatever one's take on The Spirit That Denies, the movie survives triumphantly on its own terms the splendid and satisfying Alias Nick Beal doesn't deserve the obscurity that has come to enshroud it.
Seeds of destruction
The Faust legend gets yet another retelling in modern post war America with Thomas Mitchell as an honest District Attorney looking for evidence to convict a racketeer. A conviction in this case will propel him to higher office.Into the story walks a gentleman named Nicholas Beal played with intensity by Ray Milland. The account books supposedly destroyed Milland says he can produce and produce them he does. Of course Mitchell is grateful and Milland becomes part of his inner circle.With Mitchell now being talked about for the governorship, Milland incurs the mistrust of all around him including Mitchell's wife Geraldine Wall and the Reverend George MacReady. MacReady who himself has played many a sinister character on the big and small screen knows sinister when he sees it. In fact he's the first to recognize Milland for what he is.When a man's influence doesn't work Milland plants Audrey Totter in Mitchell's circle. This is a whole lot like the way Ray Walston used Gwen Verdon to get at Tab Hunter in Damn Yankees. Only this is far more serious.Ray Milland who before The Lost Weekend played all kinds of light parts was now getting heavier dramatic fare in his career and handling it most successfully. He's probably at his most menacing on the screen in Alias Nick Beal.As for Mitchell for once he didn't die on the screen. Years ago I had a teacher who said that Thomas Mitchell had to have the record for screen deaths in major motion pictures. Although I can think of a few in addition to this one like Stagecoach and It's A Wonderful Life where he lived until the final end credits, I think the man that taught me might have had something. Mitchell is fine as a man desperately trying to do the right thing and having to contend with his own ambitions at the same time.Paramount normally did not go in for noir films, but in this case they produced one with classic satanic overtones. In the end Milland makes a rather interesting confession as the film ends. It explains his attitude and his character. I'd make it a point to check it out.
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