USA | 111 min.
black & white
Edmund Goulding, 1947
THIS TITLE IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE TO PURCHASE
Often described as the grimmest of all Hollywood film noirs, Nightmare Alley’s reputation as a cult classic reached near-mythical status due to a decades-long dispute between the film’s producer (George Jessel) and Fox, which prevented it being screened anywhere or even released on home video. With the conflict now resolved, Nightmare Alley can finally be re-discovered in this stunning new transfer as one of the most darkly sophisticated noirs of the period.
Tyrone Power, cast against type — at his own insistence — gives the performance of his lifetime as handsome scumbag / carnival barker / con-man Stanton Carlisle. He seduces fellow sideshow artiste Mademoiselle Zeena (Joan Blondell) to learn the secret of the once-lucrative mind-reading act she performed with her alcoholic husband (Ian Keith). Carlisle, a “born mentalist”, secures the secret method and sets off with his new carnie wife, Molly (Coleen Grey) to milk the bigtime as a spiritualist in Chicago. As Carlisle’s success grows, it’s only a matter of time before his greed — and twisted involvement with femme fatale psychoanalyst Lilith Ritter (Helen Walker) — bring his world crashing down around him.
Based on William Lindsay Gresham’s book of the same name, scripted by the formidable Jules Furthman (Shanghai Express, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, Rio Bravo) and reflecting the preoccupations of its drug and alcohol-abusing, orgy-frequenting director Edmund Goulding, Nightmare Alley uncovers both the dirt and romance of carnival life, and controversially — for those in the business — the tricks and scams of conmen and hustlers. After this picaresque and cathartic film, you will never again misuse the word “geek”. The Masters of Cinema Series is proud to present Nightmare Alley for the first time on home video in the UK.
by Woody Haut, 2006