Daily Archives: October 13, 2013

Dead Ringer (1964)

dead ringer

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 5 out of 10

4-Word Review: She kills her twin.

Edith (Bette Davis) attends the funeral of her twin sister’s husband a man she secretly loved and who became very rich. Edith struggles as a bar owner and is jealous of her sister Margaret’s affluent lifestyle. When she finds out that Margaret tricked her way into marrying this man it sends Edith over-the-edge in rage. She kills Margaret and then assumes her identity only to come into some unexpected complications and realize things would have been better had she just remained herself.

Davis shines in the dual role. She had already played this type of role before in 1946 in A Stolen Life. I was surprised that although she was only 56 at the time this was filmed her face looked very old and haggard almost like she was 70. Watching her eyes get all wide and roll around every time she becomes suspicious or nervous is a treat in itself.

Paul Henreid an actor turned director who is probably best known for playing the role of Victor Laszlo in Casablanca doesn’t quite give the story the zing that it needs. He employs a lot of long takes especially during the first hour that slows things down too much and doesn’t build any tension. There is a lot of extended dialogue and scenes that could have been cut out completely that would have made the movie faster paced and more exciting.

The story itself has a few too many plot holes. One is the fact that Edith meets Margaret for the first time in several decades at the funeral and then suddenly the next day decides to kill her and assume her identity, which seemed too quick. I would have expected a lot more complications than there are and the fact that she can seem to remember all the servants’ names without a hitch didn’t quite jive. There is also a scene where the detective character played by Karl Malden enters someone’s apartment and riffles through his personal belongings without any type of search warrant or probable cause, which is not realistic. They do find some incriminating evidence, but I think it would have been thrown out based on that technicality, which in turn would have completely altered the film’s ending.

The supporting cast adds some spark. Malden is good as the dogged detective a type of part he refined even more in the 1970’s TV-series ‘The Streets of San Francisco’. Peter Lawford who is always terrific is fun as Margaret’s conniving lover Tony. You can also spot in bit parts the familiar faces of Jean Hagen, Henry Beckman, Bryan O’Byrne, Bert Remsen, and Estelle Winwood. Henreid even casts his own daughter Monika in the part of Margaret’s maid Janet.

There are some fun twists that come near the end, but it takes too long to get there. The film would have been more successful had it had a more compact running time and direction that was flashy and creative.

My Rating: 5 out of 10

Released: February 19, 1964

Runtime: 1Hour 55Minutes

Not Rated

Director: Paul Henreid

Studio: Warner Brothers

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Instant Video