Among the Living (Stuart Heisler / U.S., 1941):

America, not quite out of the Depression and not yet at war, as a couple of siblings split along gothic shivers and noir shadows. The southern community is "a beehive without bees," the mill is dormant but the juke joint is jumpiní; gated within the woods is the decaying family mansion, the camera tracks deeper and deeper into its bowels until it finds Albert Dekker in his straitjacket, rocking with delight at the thunderstorm outside: "This is the exciting part... When itís threatening, ready to break loose." As the Virtuous Twin, Dekker wears business suits, is married to a thoroughly declawed Frances Farmer, and is blissfully ignorant of the familial darkness stashed away. As the Damaged Twin, he keeps his jaw stubbly and hides with the proletariat, is sweet on humid golddigger Susan Hayward, and still hears his motherís battered screams rattling inside his head. (The brutality and the helplessness of abuse are found on the faces of his strangled victims, grimacing corpses with hands placed over their ears.) A heady small-town view where the ancient pillar of integrity (Harry Carey, Sr.) has been chipped away by too many secrets, served up by Stuart Heisler with a keen sense of down-home expressionistic frenzies -- what he takes from Lang (Fury) he gives to Losey (The Lawless) and Minnelli (Undercurrent). With Gordon Jones, Jean Phillips, Ernest Whitman, and Maude Eburne. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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