Conflict (1945)

Directed by Curtis Bernhardt
Cinematography Merritt B. Gerstad

Conflict is a 1945 black-and-white suspense film noir made by Warner Brothers. It was directed by Curtis Bernhardt, produced by William Jacobs with Jack L. Warner as executive producer from a screenplay by Arthur T. Horman and Dwight Taylor, based on the story The Pentacle by Alfred Neumann and Robert Siodmak. It starred  Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith, and Sydney Greenstreet. The film is the only one in which Bogart and Greenstreet co-starred where Bogart, not Greenstreet, is the villain or corrupt character.

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impact of conflict

24 December 2009 | by RanchoTuVu (Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico) – See all my reviews

This is one of Bogart’s best movies. He could go either to hard bitten private detective Sam Spade or to paranoid types like the role he plays in this movie or what he did in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Like most Hollywood movies, murder seems a bit unrealistic given the characters as they are written out and portrayed. But get by the murder and the contrived plot that follows, Bogart still is nothing less than fantastic in this movie. Alexis Smith’s part as his wife’s younger sister is another reason not to throw this film in as a minor and forgettable Bogart effort. Leave it to director Curtis Bernhardt, who was known for making “women”s films, to make a film that explores so well a man’s infatuation and insecurity.

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Underrated Performance by Bogart

Author: Michael_Elliott from Louisville, KY
2 February 2010

Conflict (1945)

*** (out of 4)

Nice thriller about a husband (Humphrey Bogart) who murders his wife because he’s in love with her younger sister (Alexis Smith). The husband is in a bad car wreck but he fakes how serious his injury is so he will have an alibi as to why he couldn’t be the murderer but soon he starts seeing his wife and begins to fear he might not have killed her. I was pleasantly surprised to see how good this picture was even though some stronger direction would have helped matters. While watching the movie I was entertained every step of the way but at the same time I couldn’t help but wonder what this would have been like with someone like Hitchcock behind the camera. What works best are the performances with Bogart leading the way and doing a very fine job in the role of the husband who slowly begins to crack once he realizes he might not have done a very good job in terms of his murder plot.

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Bogart manages to play the character’s nerves quite well and makes the role very believable. Smith was also very good in her role bringing a certain type of innocence that really makes her register with the viewer. He own scenes of doubt over whether she should be falling for her sister’s husband were well done. Sydney Greenstreet plays the friend/psychologist who tries to keep Bogart calm throughout the matter. Greenstreet’s calm, nurturing voice certainly makes him perfect for the character. The screenplay also works very well as we’re given two different mysteries to keep in our mind. The first being whether or not the wife is actually dead or is something more supernatural going on. The second is, if she’s dead, will Bogie get away with it. This film really has a lot of elements of a horror film or at least the Val Lewton productions that were being made around this time. This film is quite dark and really fits into that genre so fans of the Lewton films will certainly want to check this out.

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Bogart and Greenstreet…You Can’t Beat ‘Em

Author: Bucs1960 from West Virginia
23 January 2002

This may not be one of Bogart’s best, in fact not even close to his best….but his pairing with Sidney Greenstreet makes it worth watching. There is something magical about the manner in which these two actors mesh that is seldom seen in film. Bogart is Bogart, always the tight lipped hero or villain with the clipped speech and slight chip on his shoulder. Greenstreet is the jolly fat man who hides behind that facade, either evil or cunning or both. Two actors with different personas which play perfectly against each other. They are seldom on the same side and although initially, in this film, they appear to be, the tables turn as the film progresses. The story is not a new one….man kills wife…or so he thinks….is she dead or isn’t she? The ending is fairly predictable but it still holds your interest. Alexis Smith, as the target of Bogart’s affections, is tall, coldly beautiful and rather detached….she does not seem vulnerable enough and can’t seem to make up her mind about her feelings for Bogart’s character. Watch this film for the exchanges between Bogart and Greenstreet…that’s what it is all about. They make the rest of it worthwhile.

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How do you spell “regret”?

Author: tostinati from United States
11 September 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Spoilers.

I’ve just seen this film again for the first time in about 20 years. I’ve held it as a personal favorite from an earlier viewing, all this time. It was with some trepidation, then, taking into account all the water that has washed under the gates in the last 20 years in cinematic terms, that I came to Conflict again. Would it still stand up as an authentic film experience?

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For me, it has. –And what’s more, there are resonances here, this time around, that flew over the head of a callow youngster. This go ’round, the film feels like nothing less than a meditation on regret, all those mistakes you wish you could undo, all those unfulfilled longings of middle age that arise out of a palpable sense of missed opportunities and fading last chances.

Bogart is perfect as Richard Mason, an engineer who is trusted to oversee the building of a bridge or skyscraper, but can’t repair a ‘simple little thing’ like his damaged relationship with his wife. Mason regrets what has become of his marriage. He regrets feeling trapped in a ‘situation.’ He regrets that the time line of eternity has failed to synchronize the lifetime of his wife’s much younger sister with his own. A cool and respected professional outwardly, he is, inside, a flailing, discontented man.

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What finally pushes him over the edge may be his wife’s casual mockery in the films first scene, a preparation for their anniversary party. Amid some standard jibes and old-couple bickering, she throws out this taunt: that she hopes he never tells Evelyn, her sister, he has a thing for her, because she’d laugh at him. “I wish you hadn’t said that” he thinks out loud. It’s at that point that we begin to feel the wheels of escape turning in the engineer’s head. With just a few thoughtless words, the relationship has turned a corner, from merely unrewarding to personally demeaning and thus intolerable. Therein hangs the tale.

By fade out, it is clear that Mason has one other towering regret: having killed his wife. The final scene, returned to the sepulcher he fashioned for his wife, Mason takes a long hard look with us alongside at existential despair. The empty tomb is a metaphor for Mason’s life as he must feel it at that point: The emptiness of an empty life, the emptiness of death and eternity for one who has lived such a life. Whatever he was waiting for hasn’t shown up this existence, and won’t in the next. This is it for Richard Mason. Does it get any darker than this?

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Conflict isn’t included in most noir references because, I believe, some of the more psychologically aberrant elements of the characters and story are explained away rationally at the end, as part of a set up or a trick to trap a murderer. But I think the experts are mistaken in not having looked more closely at this film. The core of Conflict is, in fact, the purest noir: an existential view of life and death, struggles with doubts about ones own sanity, sexual longing as a spur to murder, and a cruel subversion of a cherished bourgeois institution (the ‘perfect’ marriage). If this isn’t noir, then what is noir criticism but a transparent popularity contest– like the earliest auteur criticism– that speciously excludes films for having the “wrong” director, or for not having been endorsed by the “right” people?

Ten stars. Definitely worth your time.

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“The Subject Was Roses”?

Author: theowinthrop from United States
28 August 2004

Sidney Greenstreet was only in motion pictures for nine years, but he left a mark as large as his physical presence. He was lucky to be taken through his initial appearance in films (he was past 60)by one of the great modern film directors (John Huston). And after THE MALTESE FALCON he was lucky enough to appear in a second film by Huston (ACROSS THE PACIFIC) co-starring his “Maltese Falcon” friends Bogart and Mary Astor. With that build-up he was set. Unfortunately, he also had been set in the role of villain, and for as long as he was connected to Warners Brothers (which was most of his whole career) he was usually playing villains.

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There would be exceptions: He was in comedies like CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT, THE HUCKSTERS, PILLOW TO POST. But most of his films were dramatic, with him playing the villains. Sometimes his villains were sympathetic, or the type the audience secretly cheered on (his Superintendent Grodman avenges himself and a wrongly hanged man in the course of the film THE VERDICT). Sometimes he destroyed a truly evil figure (usually Zachary Scott), like in THE MASK OF DEMETRIOS.

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Because of THE MALTESE FALCON and the Warner Brothers connection, Greenstreet and Bogart found themselves teamed together, frequently with Peter Lorre or Mary Astor in these films as well. In most of them Greenstreet played a villain or a semi-sinister figure (his role in Casablanca is not a total villain in the film). But CONFLICT is a real exception. It was the only time Greenstreet and Bogart were in a film together and Bogart is the villain, while Greenstreet is the man who solves the murder. It is good reverse casting (reminding us that Bogart’s period as a supporting actor in the 1930s was one where he played villains against Edward G. Robinson or James Cagney). Greenstreet is excellent as the the man who uses psychological warfare to crack the killer’s conscience. And it is so subtly done we never know what was the cause of Greenstreet’s discovery of the truth – it all comes down to an issue of horticulture…so to speak.

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