Made under the umbrella of a studio system in decline this wannabe pulp thriller is made by contract players on a weekly wage going through the motions.
Copybook murder mysteries fail to come any more formulaic than this offering featuring a young James Mason from 1949. Wielding less integrity than Double Indemnity and more workmanlike in its characterisation than films of a similar period, my sense is that the source material may be to blame. Adapted from a short story there are spurned older men, distraught daughters and absentee father figures coupled with an implied love affair. Mason and Joan Bennett do the best they can with paper thin characterisation and a story of blackmail where no one feels under threat.
There is no tangible sense of inflamed passion between the stars and Mason does little more than smoulder on screen. In all fairness this is all he needs to do as a dapper petty hood swindling cash from Bennett before falling for her. Made under the Hays Code which enforced strict rules regarding kissing, fraternising or love scenes on any level, much of the drama which could have made this film better is prohibited. The Reckless Moment is jam packed full of stereotypes including a saccharine soaked Grandfather, perky younger brother and tantrum prone teenage daughter.
They have a black servant, extensive gardens and boathouses projecting an upper middle class opulence, meaning these characters are insulated and oblivious. Post war undertones and era specific gender dynamics obviously go some way to dating this film immensely. Women were homemakers, men worked on motor cars, while girls remained porcelain like and engaged in more feminine activities. Made under the umbrella of a studio system in decline this wannabe pulp thriller is made by contract players on a weekly wage going through the motions. Good production, a smattering of location work and standard back projection means this film never quite gets off the ground. Having source material taken from a magazine short story probably did it no favours either.
Written by Martin Carr
Directed by: Max Ophüls
Written by: Mel Dinelli, Robert E. Kent, Henry Garson, Robert Soderberg
Starring: James Mason, Joan Bennett, Geraldine Brooks, Shepperd Strudwick
The Reckless Moment is on limited edition UK Blu-ray from April 22, 2019.