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Tension (1949)

aka Tension

Directed By: 
Written By: 
Details: 95 mins · English

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Cast:

Small Warren Quimby
Small Claire Quimby
Small Mary Chanler
Small Lt. Collier Bonnabel
No_movie_poster Barney Deager
Small Freddie, Coast to Coast Counter Man
Small Lt. Edgar Gonsales
No_movie_poster Narco, Deager's Valet

Crew:

No_movie_poster Allen Rivkin Screenplay
No_movie_poster John Berry Director
No_movie_poster Robert Sisk Production

Plot:

Police Lieutenant Collier Bonnabel (Barry Sullivan) of the homicide department addresses the audience directly, explaining that he only knows one way to solve a case: by applying pressure to all the suspects, playing on their strengths and weaknesses, until one of them snaps under the tension. He then cites a murder case involving Warren Quimby (Richard Basehart), which leads to a flashback.

Bespectacled Quimby, the night manager of a 24 hour drugstore, is married to sexy, unfaithful Claire (Audrey Totter). Saving and doing without, he is able to buy a nice house in the suburbs, but she is utterly unimpressed, refusing even to look inside. She eventually leaves him for the latest of her conquests, rich Barney Deager (Lloyd Gough). Quimby goes to Deager's Malibu beachfront house to try to get his wife back, but she wants nothing to do with him. When Quimby persists, Deager beats him up.

He tells his sympathetic employee, Freddie, what happened. Freddie remarks that if it had been him, he would have killed the man. Deeply humiliated, Quimby takes up Freddie's idea. He constructs a new identity, cosmetics salesman "Paul Sothern", buys contact lenses and flashier clothes, and rents an apartment. As he is moving in, he meets his new neighbor, Mary Chanler (Cyd Charisse). They start dating.

Meanwhile, Quimby makes a phone call, leaving a message with Narco (Tito Renaldo), Deager's servant, that he will get Deager for some unspecified wrong. Then, one night, he hitchhikes to Deager's place, grabs a handy barbecue prong and sneaks inside. He finds Quimby asleep in a chair, but cannot go through with the killing. When he drops his weapon, Deager awakes. Quimby grabs the prong and holds it to Deager's neck. He explains that he came to kill his rival, but has suddenly realized that Claire is not worth it. Then, seeing that his wife is absent, he mocks Deager, guessing that Claire has said she was going to the movies ... the excuse she used while cheating on him. After Quimby leaves, Deager becomes thoughtful.

Quimby is surprised when Claire returns to him. When he refuses to believe she has come back out of love, she tells him Deager has been murdered. Before Quimby has time to absorb the news, Bonnabel and his partner, Lieutenant Gonsales (William Conrad), arrive to question them. They know that Claire left the murder scene before they were called. She says that she only went to Deager's place to swim regularly, and that she and her husband were Deager's friends. Quimby is forced to play along to avoid suspicion. The police are looking for Paul Sothern, the prime suspect. However, following his stated policy, Bonnabel leads Claire on, pretending he is attracted to her.

The police get a break when Mary goes to the Bureau of Missing Persons, concerned about Sothern's disappearance. She brings a photograph. Bonnabel eventually realizes Sothern and Quimby are the same man. However, Deager was shot, and they do not have the gun. Bonnabel maneuvers Mary to Quimby's workplace, but she refuses to identify Quimby and states that her faith in Sothern is unshaken.

The police arrest Quimby anyway. Under questioning, he tells them his story, but they find it hard to believe. Later, Bonnabel tells Claire that they had to release her husband due to insufficient evidence; he plants the idea that the gun is the vital clue they need to convict Quimby. Claire drives out into the country, retrieves the gun, and plants it in Sothern's apartment. Quimby arrives, followed shortly by the police. Bonnabel encourages Claire to resume searching; she "finds" the gun under a chair cushion, but then Bonnabel explains that all the furniture had been replaced. After Claire is taken into custody, Mary says the furniture had not been changed. Bonnabel replies that it would have been too much work.

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