Alias Nick Beal (1949) John Farrow
Ok Ru streaming (1:33)
District Attorney Joseph Foster (Thomas Mitchell) may be a straight-laced crusader for justice, but he can’t seem to bring down Frankie Faulkner (Fred Clark), leader of the local criminal underworld. When Foster off-handedly remarks that he’d give his soul to nail Faulkner, a strange enigmatic figure named Nick Beal (Ray Milland) appears before Foster with an offer…
As we know from practically any Faust tale, there’s a price to be paid and Beal certainly has no intention of letting Foster out of his “contract.” Foster also begins to see that he’s compromised his character as he wins the governor’s seat by underhanded practices, alienates his friend Reverend Thomas Garfield (George Macready), and his spends more time with a prostitute (Audrey Totter) working on his gubernatorial campaign than with his loving wife Martha (Geraldine Wall). The noirish atmosphere is good, especially when Milland (who’s wonderfully sinister) makes his appearances and departures. I was pleasantly surprised that the supernatural elements of the film weren’t played for comedy and never approach parody, which also contributes to the noir feel. The entire cast is wonderful: who knew George Macready could play a convincing clergyman? And watch Audrey Totter’s wonderful performance which proves that she was never given enough credit for her range as an actress. As supernatural noirs go, Alias Nick Beal is a winner.
However, Nick Beal himself might be easier to summon (not something I’d recommend) than the film itself. As far as I can tell Alias Nick Beal has never been available on DVD or Blu-ray. (Why Paramount hasn’t released it is beyond me.) Of course the best way to catch it would be at a film festival, but I suspect it might occasionally materialize on TCM. I happened to find it streaming on Ok Ru, which is a Russian site that I can’t totally vouch for. (I know it’s a cardinal sin, but I found and watched the film on my phone, not really concerned where it was coming from. Guess I’m about as smart as Joseph Foster…) But if you can find it, I think you’ll enjoy it.
Next time: Ida Lupino’s in big trouble…
Photos: TCM, Streamline