This is a slow but interesting melodrama about a psychopathic killer, with San Francisco’s quaint hill residential sections as background.
Yarn [from the novel The Frightened Child by Dana Lyon] starts a little unexpectedly in the femme concentration camp at Belsen under the Germans. This section is brief, but it’s vivid enough to convey the brutalities sustained by Poles and other refugees under the Nazi terror. One Polish woman (Valentina Cortese) sustains herself with the thought that she must someday come out alive.
She gets to America, on a dead woman’s identity papers, to find she’s pseudo-mother to a boy, heir to a fortune, whose guardian (Richard Basehart) is scheming to acquire the inheritance. Basehart makes a play for Cortese, gets her to marry him, and then plots her death, as he’s been plotting that of the child. Rest of film is taken up with his scheming and Cortese’s efforts to escape him after she discovers his designs.
Sinister mood, and heightened tensions, are well sustained, and performances by Basehart and Cortese convey the drama convincingly. William Lundigan is okay as the attorney who befriends the woman.
1951: Nomination: Best B&W Art Direction