Portrait in Black

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"They touched...and an evil spark was struck!"
  • Approved
  • 1960
  • 1 hr 52 min
  • 6.3  (1,746)

Portrait in Black is a compelling 1960 thriller directed by Michael Gordon and starring Lana Turner, Anthony Quinn, and Richard Basehart. Set against the backdrop of a wealthy coastal community, the film explores the complicated web of secrets, lies, and betrayals that lies beneath the surface of a seemingly idyllic marriage between wealthy cosmetic surgeon David Rivera (Quinn) and his beautiful wife, Sheila (Turner).

From the outset, it is clear that the Riveras' marriage is not what it seems. David is often absent from home, leaving Sheila to contend with her loneliness and isolation. The couple's relationship is strained by frequent arguments, and it becomes clear that each is hiding secrets from the other. Sheila is still mourning the death of her young son, who drowned under mysterious circumstances some years ago, and she has developed an unhealthy relationship with her stepson, the troubled and menacing Tony (Basehart).

As the film unfolds, it becomes clear that there are darker forces at work in the Rivera household. A series of suspicious events, including anonymous phone calls, the discovery of a dead dog on the Riveras' property, and the revelation of Sheila's affair with her husband's friend, make it clear that not all is as it seems. Despite these ominous signs, Sheila and David attempt to maintain the illusion of a happy marriage, even as their world increasingly begins to unravel.

Throughout the film, it is the character of Sheila who proves to be the most intriguing and complex. Turner imbues her with a subtle vulnerability and steely determination that make her both sympathetic and unsettling. Her grief for her son is palpable, as is her growing obsession with her stepson, Tony. The tension between these two characters is one of the most compelling aspects of the film, as their relationship becomes increasingly fraught with danger and desire.

Meanwhile, Quinn's David is appropriately suave and sophisticated, but the character feels somewhat underwritten, lacking the depth and complexity of his co-stars. Basehart, by contrast, is a revelation as the disturbed and unpredictable Tony, exuding a sinister and menacing energy that constantly keeps the audience on edge.

The film's visual style is also worthy of note, with Gordon and cinematographer Russell Metty using a dark and moody color palette to convey the ominous tone of the story. The coastal setting is vividly rendered, with the crashing waves and sea mist creating a sense of danger and isolation. Composer Frank Skinner's score adds to the atmosphere, with his haunting use of strings and percussion heightening the film's sense of brooding tension.

Overall, Portrait in Black is a gripping and suspenseful thriller that marks another impressive entry in the noir canon. The strong performances, moody visual style, and air of mystery make for a highly engaging and enjoyable viewing experience. For fans of classic Hollywood thrillers, this film is definitely one to watch.

Portrait in Black
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  • Release Date
  • MPAA Rating
  • Runtime
    1 hr 52 min
  • Language
  • IMDB Rating
    6.3  (1,746)