Reign of Terror (A. Mann, 1949)
So much light and shadow and claustrophobia. John Alton is the best cinematographer ever to live, I’m convinced. The way he sets the tone with his images and framing devices is astonishing. A film about being held under thumb by a ruthless dictator with the real feel of entrapment even for the viewer is perfect. Even the gorgeous scenes towards the end of the film set at a farmhouse feel suffocating despite the outdoor shots. Yet again, I’ve found a film with cinematography so spectacular, it covers a multitude of other flaws.
But let’s talk about those flaws. While part of the idea to further enhance the claustrophobic atmosphere might have been to never let off the throttle pace-wise, this actually hurts the film overall. Giving everyone a chance to breathe and recognize the slowness and peace that certain parts of life and this world offer could have actually made the evils of the film even more terrifying. What it also could have allowed for is a little grey area for both the protagonists and antagonists. As it is, there are clean cut good guys and bad guys and no one has a mix of flaws and strengths. Overall, it’s still tense, daringly uninhibited (considering the time period), and obviously a treat to look at. 8/10