Movie Critique - High Wall

Stars: 3 / 5

Recommendation: It is a psychological thriller indeed, but it isn't exactly that. It simply fizzes out to be a regular murder mystery sadly. 

High Wall is a 1947 American film noir starring Robert Taylor, Audrey Totter and Herbert Marshall among others. Directed by Curtis Bernhardt and produced by Robert Lord, the film was released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM).

Steve Kenet (portrayed by Robert Taylor) is put in psychiatric hospital for murdering his wife, of which he has no memory. Dr. Ann Lorrison (portrayed by Audrey Totter) persuades him to undergo a brain surgery that would ease the pre-existing injury and hopefully get his memory back. And thus begins the lost and found journey of Kenet's mind and the consequences he might end up facing.

The film was based on a story and play by Alan R. Clark and Bradbury Foote for which screenplay was written by Sydney Boehm and Lester Cole. The opening credits are displayed on a picture of a really high wall. 

Herbert Marshall portrays the role of Willard I. Whitcombe in the film. I have heard Herbert Marshall as agent Ken Thurston in the espionage radio drama The Man Called X which had aired on CBS and NBC from 1944 thru 1952. He has such a commanding and powerful voice that I was curious to see how he would play on screen.

A sniper bullet during the first world war caused his leg to be amputated. Yet no where in the film do we get any inkling that he is walking on a prosthetic leg. His deep voice was what made him a very in-demand actor in the Hollywood at that time. 

Filled with psychological melodrama, the film creates a shiver and certain morbidity to the story line. But it has its faults enough to make this more of a murder mystery rather than a film noir. It was essentially a box office failure. Probably some of the plot points could have been refined to make it a better one.

Despite the failure, both Robert Taylor and Audrey Totter loved making this film as the movie gave them a chance to showcase their talent in a different way other than what they were usually made to portray.

I recently watched Audrey Totter in the 1947 American film noir Lady in the Lake where she has a similar role of playing the part of a professional woman. 

Robert Taylor had been in a string of movies where he was relegated to be a "pretty boy". He was very happy to do this role since he actually got to act. 

The story-line of High Wall is very much similar to Alfred Hitchcock's 1945 American psychological mystery thriller film Spellbound. But that premise is all that these two films have in common. There are so many loop holes that sometimes it gets confusing as to how a plot point surfaced. 

Several loop holes in the plot, with some legal irregularities, the film is an ok mystery, but not a great one. It is a psychological thriller indeed, but it isn't exactly that. It simply fizzes out to be a regular murder mystery sadly. 

Spoiler Alerts:

1) Movie Trivia:

a. Look for one of the familiar faces from the original Perry Mason TV show, Russell Arms, as a patient who is awaiting discharge in this film. One of his earlier roles. I had also seen him in the 1949 can mystery-film Cover-Up recently. 

2) Grammatical / Historical / Location / Character Errors:

a. Ann says "come in" when someone knocks on the door, but she immediately says "Hello George" before the person enters into the room or is seen by her. How does she know it was George who knocked?

b. Whitcombe hides his gun under a newspaper on the arm of the couch when the police comes to check on him. But as soon as they leave, without him even going near it, when the newspaper is shown again you can see the gun exposed. 


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