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MOVIE: Tension (1949)

Based on a story by: John D. Klorer

Screenplay by: Allen Rivkin

Directed by: John Berry

Richard Basehart, Audrey Totter, Lloyd Gough, Cyd Charisse, Barry Sullivan

The film opens with a suit clad Detective Collier Bonnabel ( Barry Sullivan) giving a narrative of the crime about to be revealed.

And so the story goes…

A mild-mannered and bespectacled pharmacist/ drug store manager, Warren Quimby (Richard Basehart) works 12 hour night shifts to give his glamorous platinum blond wife, Claire Quimby (Audrey Totter) the things she desires. They live above the drug store, a situation she finds appalling, but even when he saves enough to buy a small house, she rejects living in the suburbs.

Warren’s fear become real when she leaves him for a wealthy man with a beach house, Barney Deager (Lloyd Gough). But, still he doesn’t give up. He confronts the man at the beach. Barney beats Warren up in front of his wife.  He lays in the sand in disgrace. The plan begins. Warren will create a new identity for himself and kill Barney.

It starts with a pair of contact lenses he is fitted for. (contact lenses in 1949!) There are new expensive clothes and a new apartment to be used only on the weekend. He identifies himself as Paul Southern, a travelling salesman.

He meets a young, beautiful neighbour Mary (Charisse, in a non-dancing roll) who accidentally takes his picture, while experimenting with a new camera. The two begin to spend Saturdays and Sundays together. Work at the drug store continues Mondays to Fridays. So does the obsession to kill his wife’s lover.

Warren starts to make threatening phone calls to Barney’s home using his pseudonym. These are intercepted by household staff. One night he creeps to Barney’s house. While crossing the beach, he find a small pitch fork. The perfect murder weapon! But, once inside and upon waking the man, he decides Barney isn’t worth it and neither is his wife.

He returns to the apartment over the drug store. His wife is there begging that he take her back. You see, Claire’s lover has been shot.

Now as the viewer you start to think… who did this? Was it Warren/Paul, now so full of delusions that he doesn’t remember committing the crime? Or was it his Claire. The police have the same questions. And just who is Paul Southern? They want to know.

Complications arrive when Mary wonders whar happened to Paul when he doesn’t return back to the apartment over the weekend. She files a missing person report and takes with her the only picture she has.