Arch Oboler, radio’s master of suspense, has effectively transposed his technique into the visual medium with The Arnelo Affair. Strictly speaking this is not a whodunit, nor can it be catalogued as a psychological suspense picture.
Anne (Frances Gifford), a well-wedded Chicago wife on the eve of her 12th anniversary, finds herself attracted to Tony Arnelo (John Hodiak), nitery owner with a disreputable background who is a client of her lawyer husband Ted (George Murphy). Subordinated by Ted to his work, her almost hypnotic fascination for Arnelo drives her to see him daily. When another of Arnelo’s amours turns up murdered, she is involved and he uses this as a means to bring her to him.
There’s never a question as to who committed the murder, but the crime is secondary to its effect on the characters involved. Until the film’s very climax, no hint is given to the ultimate denouement. Dialogue instills the feeling of action where none exists for much of the footage, and the gab is excellent but for a couple of spots when Oboler gives vent to florid passages.
Thesping of Gifford, a horse opera graduate, marks her for a top dramatic slot in Metro’s future book, while Hodiak smartly underplays the nitery op’s vicious nature concealed by a genteel gloss. Surprise of the pic [from a story by Jane Burr] is the quiet, slow-talking detective, limned by Warner Anderson. It’s unusual that the police are shown as anything but boobs.