The Verdict (1946)
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The film actually changes the structure of the story, and of the denouement - the killer confesses in both the story and movie, but his confession is unnecessary to the police, who found the flaw in his plot beforehand. So he commits suicide.
Zangwell based his novel on an actual case of great public interest in 1887. A woman named Miriam Angel was heard moaning in her locked room in a boarding house on Batty Street in the East End of London. Other roomers broke down the door of her room, and found her dying in bed. A doctor was brought in quickly and discovered she had been poisoned with prussic acid. Then more moaning was heard. Under the dying woman's bed was a man named Israel Lipski, who had apparently taken some poison too. Lipski recovered, and was charged with Angel's murder. He would claim he was forced to go into the bedroom by two men, who then poisoned Angel and framed him. He was found guilty of the murder, and was eventually hanged. But first there was a great movement led by the editor William Stead, who felt the trial was unfair. Stead's attempt almost freed Lipski (Home Secretary Matthews and the trial Justice, Sir James Fitzjames Stephen reviewed the evidence, only to reaffirm the verdict after Lipski apparently confessed). It one wants the full story, read Martin Friedland's THE TRIALS OF ISRAEL LIPSKI.
The film keeps to most of the story, and invents some novel little twists. Grodman (Sidney Greenstreet) has been the brilliant Yard Superintendent for many years, and suddenly learns that he made a stupid error that cost an innocent man his life. The innocent man claimed he spoke to a minister at the time of the crime, and that the minister was going to Wales by boat the next day. Grodman explains that everyone knows that you go from London to Wales by train, not by boat. But it turns out the minister (Arthur Shields) went to New South Wales by boat. He did not hear about the trial of the man until it was too late for him to get back in time. Grodman is condemned in the press, and forced to resign - to be replaced by his rival Superintendent Buckley. This is bad enough, but Grodman is aware of two things that gnaw at him:
1) the evidence that convicted the innocent man was the word of the nephew of the victim (and her heir)that suggested the innocent man was at the scene of the crime when he was with the minister (i.e., the nephew lied).
2) Although Grodman's official work led to the successful trial and prosecution of the innocent man, he really is not responsible for the tragedy. Buckley suspected that the minister may have taken the ship to New South Wales, not Wales, and eventually locates the minister - but he took his time doing it, and did not mention it to Grodman or anyone else. In short, Buckley let Grodman's work kill an innocent man, so he could be disgraced and Buckley could replace them.
If you keep these two points in mind the entire plot makes sense. Grodman wants to return the favor with interest to Buckley.
Furthermore, the nephew of the victim (Morton Lowry - Arthur Kendall in the film), is rather despicable due to his fighting his workers seeking for better pay. He is confronted by a member of Parliament (Paul Cavanagh) who frequently has arguments with him in public. Both Lowry and Cavanagh are friends of Greenstreet and of his closest friend Peter Lorre. Cavanagh, Lowry, and Lorre live across the street from Greenstreet.
I will not go further into the plot, but it is done with great panache. At one point or another (including one famous sequence dealing with pairs of white gloves) everyone (including George Coulouris as Superintendent Buckley) is suspected of being the killer in the plot. It was a very finely made thriller, well directed by Don Siegel and with a tiptop cast. Being the only work by Zangwell that made it to the screen, it seems he was pretty well served after all.
In The Verdict, Sydney Greenstreet as Supt. George Edward Grodman and Peter Lorre as Victor Emmric team up in what might be billed as the best whodunnit ever produced for the screen.
Grodman is summarily dismissed from his Scotland Yard position. After his forced retirement a neighbor is murdered and he and his eccentric friend Emmric try to solve the crime.
Why this is not among the favorites of every fan of this genre is a mystery in itself.
"The Verdict," made in 1946, is a heavily atmospheric mystery set around 1890, when Supt. George Edward Grodman (Greenstreet) inadvertently sends an innocent man to the gallows for a woman's death and loses his job. The man claimed he had an alibi, but the person wasn't found until after the hanging. After many years in service, Grodman leaves with a blemish on his reputation. Replacing him is his ambitious nemesis, Supt. John R. Buckley (George Coulouris). Grodman begins to write the stories of his various cases, in the hopes that it can serve as a primer for police investigations.
When Arthur Kendall is murdered across the street from him, Grodman is pulled into the investigation, since Kendall's landlady (Rosalind Ivan) summoned him to help her get into the room. Kendall's aunt was the murder victim in the case where the innocent man was hanged. Before Kendall was killed, he visited Grodman, along with Grodman's friend Peter Emmric (Lorre) who lives in the same house as Kendall, and a politician, Clive Russell (Paul Cavanagh), who hates Kendall. Russell and Kendall come to blows outside of Grodman's house. Grodman now finds himself in a position of helping the man who replaced him.
This is an very clever mystery, brought up a few levels by the acting of Greenstreet and Lorre. Paul Cavanagh and George Coulouris turn in good performances in smaller roles, and Joan Lorring is fine as a dance hall girl who was involved with Kendall. Though not a great beauty, she has a great figure and conveys a low class background.
Highly recommended. With the Victorian times, the heavy fog, and the presence of Cavanagh and Coulouris, the film reminds one of the Sherlock Holmes movies.
Of course, The Verdict wouldn't have been half as memorable as it is now if it weren't for the brilliant acting performances. Peter Lorre on top, and not exclusively since he's one of my top 5 favorite actors ever. Lorre is genius as ever as the amiable cartoon-artist obsessed by the sinister details such as corpse digging and strangling. Like in multiple of his other films, he also has a slight drinking problem which gives the film a tiny comical side-aspect. Sydney Greenstreet (best know as Bogart's concurrent in Casablanca) makes a great Supt. Grodman as he manages to remain distinguished and irritated at the same time. Without the slightest doubt, The Verdict receives a rating 10 out of 10 from me and naturally, it comes with the highest possible recommendation. I'll even buy you a beer if you can name the murderer's identity before the film is over.
When Scotland Yard superintendent George Grodman (Greenstreet) in error sends an innocent man to be hanged at Newgate Prison, he is forced to retire in shame. Replaced by the irritable and obnoxious John Buckley (Coulouris), Grodman gets an unexpected opportunity to embarrass Buckley when a tricky murder occurs in a seemingly locked room
The scene is set from the off, it's 1890 at Newgate Prison in London and a man is hanged off camera. Fog and gas lighted shadows cloak the events to enhance the macabre feel of the event. For the next 80 odd minutes 90% of the story will involve fog or shadows, or both at the same tame, making this very much of interest to the Gothic/noir fan. The story had previously formed the basis of a 1934 film titled as The Crime Doctor.
The story itself is most intriguing, the mystery element remains strong throughout as the suspects are deftly dangled in the plotting by Siegel (directing his first full length feature) and Milne. Just how could a murder be committed in a room completely locked from the inside? The makers ensure that certain areas are kept grey to give off a feeling of confusion, motives and means are deliberately matter of fact and the trusted pairing of Greenstreet and Lorre is a deliciously odd-ball little and large act.
It would be harsh to decry the production for being stage-bound, because although it inevitably is, it doesn't hurt the mood of the picture at all. The story is acted and directed with skill and Haller's photography is in turn beautiful and suitably sinister. 8/10
The Verdict (1946) is a bitter and powerful film,very neat,elegant and intelligent,and extremely well acted by a wonderful cast (videlicet Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre,the rest of the actors being ugly,banal and uninteresting).It is,in another key,as bitter and pragmatic as Madigan (1968).It belongs to the class of the best crime movies,like MAIGRET TEND UN PIEGE and MAIGRET ET L'AFFAIRE SAINT-FIACRE,the two French masterpieces.It is immersed in the foggy,terrific and tenebrous London;it is clean,because it avoids the cheap psychoanalytical subtexts of the epoch.It looks like the movie of a very intelligent and lucid man,Don Siegel.There is not even a single drop of melodrama or of imbecility in The Verdict (1946).It makes other movies with similar themes look like childish melodramas.It has those exquisite touching and thrilling notes that only the best crime fiction displays (Arthur Conan Doyle,Poe,Paul Féval,and a few French novelists).The denouement is late,surprising and has the requisite and delightful sobriety and majesty.The atmosphere is extraordinary.
The hefty Sydney Greenstreet is an impressing,vigorous,leonine,realistic and imposing actor,in the class of Gabin,Welles,George C. Scott,Marlon Brando;his role is a jewel.He is not so famous,and this proves that,sometimes at least,fame means nothing.
The Verdict (1946) is an ingenious locked room mystery,and a copiously macabre one;it begins in a condemned cell.As for the plastic qualities,the relish this movie offers is complete.By his The Verdict (1946),Don Siegel gave the mystery movies a dignity that only Arthur Conan Doyle,Poe,Charles Dickens knew to give the crime fiction;like them,Siegel seized the whole fascination of a genre.
Massive Sydney Greenstreet & diminutive Peter Lorre team once again in another suspenseful crime film from Warner Brothers. This Laurel & Hardy of the Sinister could always be counted on for their good acting and enjoyable scene stealing antics. While two of the movies they made (in conjunction with Humphrey Bogart) are undisputed classics, their lesser forays into the shadows are no less welcome.
Corpulent Greenstreet portrays a discredited former Scotland Yard superintendent, who, with the aid of eccentric artist Lorre, privately investigates the stabbing of a neighbor. Like a cello and violin duet, these two performers made a delightful team, their very different personas eliciting ominous music from their partnership.
British character actress Rosalind Ivan gives a vivid performance as Lorre's hysterical landlady. Others in the supporting cast also acquit themselves well: George Coulouris as Greenstreet's befuddled successor; Holmes Herbert as the stern head of Scotland Yard; Arthur Shields as a distressed clergyman; Morton Lowry as a playboy & Paul Cavanagh as a Member of Parliament, both with secrets to protect; and little Clyde Cook as a helpful burglar.
Movie mavens will recognize an unbilled Ian Wolfe appearing as a murder trial jury foreman.
A London-by-gaslight thriller set in 1890, The Verdict tries to combine the atmosphere of the Sherlock Holmes stories (fog, hansom cabs, capes and toppers, bachelors' quarters) with the plot devices of Agatha Christie (pivotal points are lifted from both The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and Murder on the Orient Express). Unfortunately, this cozy throwback to locked-room murder mysteries of an earlier time strikes a wrong note in the first full year of the post-war era, when the dark flowers of film noir in which both Greenstreet and Lorre played far from incidental roles were everywhere blossoming underfoot.
Scotland Yard Inspector Greenstreet gets nudged into early retirement when a man he sent to the gallows is found to have been innocent. He nurses a grudge against his arrogant replacement (George Coulouris) and bides his time.
When a prominent young cad is found stabbed in his locked chambers and the police get nowhere, Greenstreet steps in. Both he and Lorre moved in the same circles as the dead man, as did a Member of Parliament, around whom suspicion slowly deepens.
Though there are ties to an insolent music-hall singer (Joan Lorring) and the unseen wife of a peer of the realm, the story unfurls in the fussy Victorian world of unattached males. A vicious twist at the end leaves one perplexed: Is there enough psychological back story to justify it, or is it a desperate, last-ditch contrivance? In any case, it's much more Greenstreet's movie than Lorre's, but both contributed better work elsewhere during their five-year cinematic liaison.
Mr. Siegel had been involved behind the cameras for some time. He knew what he wanted and how he wanted to present it for an audience. It is curious he selected this project for his directorial debut, after all, most of his later career was devoted to a different kind of film making altogether, but one can see his talent all over this third retelling of the Israel Zangwill's novel, as adapted for the screen by Peter Milne.
As the film begins, we hear a bell tolling at Newgate's Prison tower indicating the death of a prisoner. Superintendent George Grodman is at hand to witness the execution. Unfortunately, the wrong man was killed and the real culprit is at large. Grodman is demoted because of his blunder and his rival, the hateful Buckley takes over his place. Grodman sets out to make amends and straighten things out in a most unconventional way.
Mr. Siegel's London was shot at the Warner's lot. Hollywood had its own resources to reproduce, sometimes brilliantly, the locales in which the films took place. Thus, the Victorian London we see is permanently darkened by the sort of pea soup one does not see these days, but it was a must at the time this was made. Ernest Haller, the cinematographer shot the film in dark tones to give it an atmospheric feeling that works well, although at times it is somewhat exaggerated.
Mr. Siegel got good all around ensemble acting from his cast. Sydney Greenstreet was not an expressive actor. In this film he shows a bit more of an understanding for what made Grodman tick. The great Peter Lorre is at his best. Joan Lorring, playing Lottie Rawson has some good moments. The supporting cast did wonders to enhance the film. Rosalind Ivan, Paul Cavanagh, the excellent George Couloris, and Morton Lowry, among them, do impressive work.
The year is 1890. Greenstreet plays the superintendent of police of Scotland Yard, George Edward Grodman, who has just been to the execution of a man he arrested for the crime of murdering an elderly woman. He arrives back at his office to discover that the man is in fact innocent, as the clergyman that the man claimed as an alibi has finally surfaced. Disgraced, he is forced to resign in favor of his subordinate, John Buckley (George Coulouris).
Grodman is a man of means, so the loss of a paycheck doesn't seem to be a problem, but his nightmares about sending an innocent man to the gallows are. He seems to be recovering, and even making plans for writing a book about his past cases, when a neighbor from across the street is murdered. The crime seems to be a perfect one - the murderer apparently killed the man from inside his own locked room and escaped without detection or leaving any clues behind. However, the brash and boorish new superintendent Buckley will not accept that, and continues seeking a suspect, although in the manner of a bull in a china shoppe. In the meantime, there are a multitude of suspects that intersect with a multitude of witnesses, and Grodman along with the help of his friend, illustrator Victor Emmric (Peter Lorre) decide to do some investigating themselves on their own time.
Greenstreet and Lorre are terrific together as always, with a timing and chemistry that makes them great at these kinds of films. You never know if the likable exteriors displayed by each is the truth or a lie in either or both cases, usually up to the end. This one will keep you guessing right up to the final scene, and I highly recommend it.
In the movie Scotland Yard Superintendent George Gordman, Sydney Greenstreet,is deeply troubled when he sent a totally innocent man to the gallows for a crime that he didn't commit: The unjustly executed man being ex-convict John Harris for the murder of Hannah Kendell whom he worked for as a gardener. Forced to retire Gordman is obsessed in finding the person who really murdered Mr. Kendell to clear his conscience. It's then that the late Hannah Kendell's nephew Arthur, Morton Lowry ends up being murdered himself in his home under very baffling and mysterious circumstances.
With Gordman's replacement Supt. John Buckley, George Coulouris, handling the case all the leads to Arthur Kendell's murder leads to member of the British Parliament Cive Russell, Pat Cavanagh. Having no alibi of where he was at the time of Kendell's murder and being the #1 suspect by having a violent augment with the man, whom he threatened to murder, the night before the case against Russell was open and shut.
At his murder trial Russell was found guilty and sentenced to hang by the neck until dead in three weeks hence.***SPOILERS FOM THIS POINT DOWN*** It's then that the real truth comes out not only in who murdered Arthur Kendell but his Aunt Hannah as well. A truth so shocking in not only exposing Kendell's murder but even far more mind boggling in who was the person who murdered him and why!
Terrific Victorian crime drama with both Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre, as artist Victor Emmeric, clicking together as the Mutt & Jeff, or Fat Man & assistant, crime solving team. The ending of the movie is a real mind blower in that you'd never had figure it out, until it reviled itself, in a million years. Even though it completely explains what lead up to Arthur Kendell's murder down to a crossed "T" and dotted "I".
In the end the disgraced former Scotland Yard Superintendent George Grodman not only redeemed himself but made his arrogant and so full of himself replacement Supt. Buckley look like a total incompetent in his mishandling of he Arthur Kendell murder case that he was entrusted with. He also made up for sending an innocent man-John Harris-to the gallows in, given a second chance, having the person who did in fact murder Hannah Kendell brought to justice. With the justice not being administrated by a court of law but by George Edward Grodman himself!
The film begins with the unfortunate execution of an innocent man. Naturally, instead of learning from this, the police begin with recriminations and the police superintendent (Sydney Greenstreet) is sacked--even though you could easily see why the dead man's story seemed false. In his place, the weaselly George Coulouris now ran the police department and it was obvious that he was a real toad.
Shortly after this, three friends leave the now retired Greenstreet's flat after having a get together that is disrupted by an argument. The next morning, one of the men (who happens to live across the street) is found murdered. The new superintendent goes about investigating the case all wrong--blindly lashing out for suspects in a very haphazard manner. At the same time, Greenstreet on his own begins looking into the matter as well.
When the film all comes together at the end, why the man was murdered as well as who and how were all solved incorrectly (naturally) by Coulouris. So, it's up to Greenstreet to work quickly to uncover the real why, who and how in order to save a man from hanging.
The film excels with lots of red herrings, twists and intelligent dialog. While not the best of the mysteries of the era, it sure is close and is well worth seeing. They just don't make 'em like they used to....too bad.
Greenstreet is impressive as the Scotland Yard detective who loses his job when an innocent man is wrongly hanged. He gets his revenge in an unusual way. Morton Lowry is excellent as the victim and others in the cast all give quality performances--Paul Cavanagh, Peter Lorre, Rosalind Ivan and especially George Coulouris as the man Sydney describes as not big enough to "fill his britches". Only weak casting is Joan Lorring in the role of a lowly music hall singer--her cabaret routine is not the least bit convincing although it doesn't matter much because the film belongs to Greenstreet and Lorre.
As an overly imaginative landlady, Rosalind Ivan is a scream (literally!) Will keep you hooked until the finish.
I won't discuss any of this plot – others have given more than enough to whet the interest of anyone who may not know about this film or the actors. This is such a great mystery and entertaining film by the two stars and the entire cast that too much about it in advance would have taken away some of the enjoyment for me. Suffice it to say that this is one of the best mystery movies ever made. It had me guessing to the very end. And, that's great entertainment to me.
I quit watching television years ago, so I don't know about movies that appear in the late hours on some TV stations. Since fewer than 1,000 viewers have rated this film as of the end of 2013, I can guess that it has not been shown much on TV. But it's out now on DVD and I heartily recommend it.
Greenstreet and Lorre were in nine movies together, eight with major roles. Those were: The Maltese Falcon, 1941 (number 133 on the IMDb top 250 list at the end of December 2013); Casablanca, 1942 (number 27 on the IMDb list at the end of 2013); Background to Danger, 1943; Passage to Marseille, 1944; The Mask of Dimitrios, 1944; The Conspirators, 1944; Three Strangers, 1946; and, The Verdict, 1946. They were uncredited table waiters in one other film, In This Our Life (1942). Besides The Maltese Falcon and Casablanca, Greenstreet and Lorre also starred with Humphrey Bogart in Passage to Marseille; and individually they appeared with Bogie in several more films.
While both were known especially for their mystery and drama roles, Greenstreet also did very well in comedies. He usually played a straight man to great satisfaction. Greenstreet got a late start in films, at age 62, with The Maltese Falcon. He made only 23 movies in all, and died in 1954 at age 74. Lorre was much younger but had been around longer and had three dozen movies under his belt before 1941. He had many more movies and TV episodes, but died at the young age of 59 in 1964. The IMDb Web pages have more interesting info on both actors. I'm one of those fans who would enjoy having seen many more pairings of Greenstreet and Lorre in movies.
Greenstreet and Lorre are neighbors in Victorian London and Greenstreet is a Scotland Yard inspector. Another neighbor Morton Lowry has provided invaluable information in the murder of his aunt, a case Greenstreet was assigned to. But after the execution of the suspect which is what began the film, new evidence comes to light proving that an innocent man had been hung.
Greenstreet's rival on the job, George Coulouris practically dances a jig with this news. He's been doing a lot of back channel maneuvering to get Greenstreet canned and himself to take his place. He's truly one hateful dude.
But later on Lowry is found dead in the proverbial locked room and Coulouris is the one now with a baffling case. Greenstreet and his artist friend Peter Lorre who like a bit of a nip now and then are around to offer help which Coulouris would rather die than accept.
How was the murder committee? The only thing I will say on the subject is that when one is good, one can make people believe they see more than they really do.
Lorre and Greenstreet play beautifully off each other and add the presence of Coulouris, you've got the makes of a great film that needs no star power. Such other colorful character players like Paul Cavanaugh, Joan Lorring, Arthur Shields, Rosalind Ivan are also in the cast.
When the solution is given at the end, you'll think it so confounded simple you'll kick yourself you didn't think of it.
Greenstreet and Lorre are not to be missed in any event.
2.5 out of 5 stars
Cool Factor: Peter Lorre being Peter Lorre
Lame Factor: The Film could have been Great
This one has it all, except perhaps a handsome leading man, but the movie works utilizing an obese senior citizen and a geeky Hungarian as co-leads. They play well off each other and are augmented by some of Hollywood's best support actors, especially George Colouris as Greenstreet's incompetent successor as a Scotland Yard Superintendent.
Very little down time here as Siegel keeps the story moving and holds the viewer's interest throughout. Unlike some reviewers, I thought the premise was plausible and possible. Loved every minute of "The Verdict", and would recommend it to anyone who likes a good mystery as much as I do. It is one of my favorite genres, and I was surprised on two counts; the the confounding mystery of the story, and the surprise of stumbling across it.
The cast are all good with Greenstreet and funny, morbid artist Peter Lorre (Victor) leading the way. The story is set in Victorian times in England and has plenty of foggy atmosphere. It's a murder mystery type of film that keeps you guessing as to who the murderer could be. You're bound to change your mind a few times but will you get it right? The film moves along at a good pace and is an enjoyable experience as you watch it thanks to the cast. Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet deliver their lines perfectly and they can be very funny as well as very misleading. They have great chemistry together as always.
The pairing of Greenstreet and Lorre is wonderful. The mystery is kind of mysterious and the sort of thing you're not really sure of, even if you're like me you work it out. The joy in this film is that the finger of suspicion keeps passing over each and every character repeatedly so its hard to know, until the final fade out who done it.
One of the better mysteries I've seen recently.(Its kind of a proto-noir set in 1890's England.)