And What A Lovely Web It Is: Reviewing Michael Gordon’s Film Noir, ‘The Web’

by Rachel Bellwoar

It’s hard to believe Michael Gordon’s The Web has never had a home video release before. In this competent noir from screenwriters, William Bowers and Bertram Millhauser (with a story credit to Harry Kurnitz), Regan (Edmond O’Brien) is a lawyer who would like to think he’s a Saul Goodman type  – disrespected but seriously underestimated – and he’s right on the first part. Even though he doesn’t do anything straight away to deserve it, people just seem to know, like when he first walks into the offices of Mr. Colby (Vincent Price) and nobody reacts to his presence except when he tries to ask for help, and then he’s a nuisance. The situation might’ve been sympathetic if he didn’t make passes at Ella Raines, but even before he acts boorish people don’t show him respect.

While Regan is positioned as the hero in The Web, though, he’s not the sharpest guy in the room and that’s the part that takes some getting used to, because it’s not just that Colby’s a worthy adversary – which he is. It’s that Regan’s an unworthy one. Hired by Colby to act as his bodyguard, despite having no qualifications or business using a gun, it’s no surprise that someone ends up dead. What Reagan begins to realize, though, is he may have been set-up – that Colby had wanted the man killed and got someone to do it.

Alas, while detective work would seem to run closer to Regan’s chosen profession, he’s no better at it. In fact, Reagan doesn’t seem that broken up at all, though whether that’s a fault in O’Brien’s performance or him playing the character perfectly is hard to say. It might be disappointing that Reagan’s not a better sleuth at times, but he has to be someone Colby could convincingly dupe, and, in that sense, O’Brien nails it.

There are some very quotable lines in this movie (including one where Colby brings up holding all the cards while holding actual cards). Raines is stunning as Colby’s secretary, Noel, while William Bendix steals scenes as the watchful Lieutenant Damico. Price is terrific as the antagonist, Colby. The lies he catches onto are spectacular and Price maintains such control of his voice in this movie. He always seems to catch people off guard, despite being out in the open, and the impression he gives of being impossible to rattle only builds as the film goes on.

Kino Lorber’s release comes with a commentary by professor and film scholar, Jason A. Ney, that’s really well-organized. Depending on where your film interests lie, some topics might land more than others, but I especially enjoyed the background Ney was able to gives on Raines and the attention he put on Damico being a second generation, Italian American immigrant

As Ney says, “…all three of the main actors… bring an undeniable effort to their work…,” and that could be extended to Bendix as well. Watch any of them while they’re not the focus on screen and they’re always in character.

The Web is available on Blu-Ray and DVD starting July 13th from Kino Lorber.

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