The Paradine Case


Crime / Drama / Romance / Thriller

IMDb Rating 6.6 10 9831

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Gregory Peck as Anthony Keane
Alfred Hitchcock as Man Carrying Cello Case
Charles Laughton as Judge Lord Thomas Horfield
Leo G. Carroll as Sir Joseph

Movie Reviews

Reviewed by johngiovannicorda 9 / 10

Alida Valli: Hitchcok before Visconti

I'm crazy about Alida Valli. I'd seen every film she's ever done except "The Paradine Case" until today that is. Today I met Mrs Paradine for the first time. Strangely enough it doesn't feel like Hitchcock it feels more like Carol Reed the director who gave her a major International hit with "The Third Man" a couple of years later. I fell in love with Alida Valli in the 1954 Luchino Visconti's tragic romantic epic "Senso". Now having seen "The Paradine Case" I see a glimpse of the woman in "Senso" where her actions, are also atrocious but govern by love. A love who will only lead to tragedy. Visconti showed us an Alida Valli that other than a great beauty was also a great actress. Hitchcock introduced her as VALLI in this film, a gimmick with very short legs. Here she plays the widow of a blind man that "allegedly" she killed. The casting of Gregory Peck is a major problem, maybe not for the box office in 1947, but it certainly detrimental to the suspension of disbelief, so needed in a thriller. Charles Laughton is superb in his few, short scenes. I wonder if Hitchcock himself was the inspiration for his role. A judge, a lascivious man with an roving eye for young pretty women. Ethel Barrymore plays his wife, to absolute perfection. Then, Louis Jourdan, beautiful of course, Charles Coburn, Ann Todd but, it is Alida Valli who gives this film that extra something. Considered a "minor" Hitchcock by most but not by me. 9/10

Reviewed by JuguAbraham 8 / 10

More than a courtroom soap opera--a major Hitchcock work

I loved the film not because of its courtroom drama but because of Hitchcock's ability to deal with the drama outside the courtroom.

First, take in the shots that lead up to Alida Valli's character being arrested and locked up in the cell. Hitchcock is at his best building up the positive and elegant side of the character by enhancing the details--the expensive jewelry, the lady ensuring her hair is in place before receiving visitors, the humanist care taken to inform the valet that she would not be having her dinner, etc., etc. The build-up of the character within a few minutes of reel time for the viewer is considerably intelligent right up to the loud slamming of the cell door and the effect it has on the inmate (Hitchcock's own phobia?).

The second sequence that is unforgettable for me is the camera zooming in on Ann Todd's naked shoulder followed by the lecherous Charles Laughton caressing Todd's hand hidden away from her husband's vision, leading up ultimately to Todd's rejection of Laughton's advances. What is of consequence is not the performance of Todd or Laughton, but Hitchcock's sequence of visuals deftly edited to enhance the effect.

A third unusual image of the film is the introductory shot of Louis Jordan. This is the only film in my memory where a character is introduced without the least shred of light falling upon his/her face--his legs and hands are quite visible, but not his face.

Finally, the meetings in the jail between Valli and Peck smolders without a kiss or a physical touch. In my view, the performance of Valli is outstanding. Her remarkable turns in films by Visconti ("Senso") and Bertolucci ("1900") proved her capability.

The film belongs to Hitchcock, Valli and the camera-work of Lee Garmes (shots within the courtroom--probably the angles were suggested by the director). It is an unusual Hitchcock film with an elegant turn by Alida Valli. It is a film that cries out loud for a reassessment among Hitch's body of work. It is a major film of the director--though it is not an obvious one. Hitchcock seems to ask the viewer at the end of the film a difficult question--who is the true heroine of the film? And he has a MacGuffin...

Reviewed by critic-2 10 / 10

So what if there's no action?

"The Paradine Case" has gotten an undeserved bad reputation as one of Alfred Hitchcock's least interesting films simply because it does not use any of the gimmicks and brilliant visual touches Hitchcock is famous for: a man being chased by a crop duster, inventively shot murder scenes in locations such as the ones in "Psycho", people dangling from Mt. Rushmore, unusual settings such as a cramped lifeboat. As if these touches were all that made Hitchcock great! If these touches are all we watch Hitchcock for, it's as shallow a reason for watching films as going to see summer movies merely to see special effects. A great director like Hitchcock deserves more credit than that.

"The Paradine Case" is, on the contrary, one of Hitchcock's most entertaining films, if you are willing to concentrate on dialogue and characterization rather than flashy visuals. Gregory Peck is the barrister assigned to defend Mrs. Paradine, a woman on trial for the cold-blooded murder of her blind husband, and it is immediately obvious that Peck is so besotted by this beautiful, mysterious woman that he is in no position to be objective about his client. Peck does quite a good job, but one can only wonder how Laurence Olivier, who was busy filming "Hamlet" at the time, and who was Hitchcock's first choice for the role, might have played it. Hitchcock wanted Greta Garbo for the role of Mrs. Paradine, but was unable to get her, and settled for Alida Valli, who is excellent, if not as beautiful and mysterious as Garbo. Louis Jourdan plays a suspicious-looking witness in the case, but Hitchcock wanted Robert Newton (famous for playing Long John Silver and other disreputable characters) for the role, and Newton would have provided a far more different and repulsive characterization (apparently Hitchcock's intention).

Charles Laughton unforgettably plays the judge at the trial as a sadist and a supremely dirty old man, who hates Peck because Ann Todd (as Peck's wife) refused his advances once, and Ethel Barrymore, brilliant in her limited screen time, is Laughton's intimidated and submissive wife.

The majority of the film does take place in the courtroom, but so does "Witness for the Prosecution", and no one has a bad word to say about that film. (Would they have done so if Hitchcock had made that one? The Agatha Christie thriller doesn't contain any flashy visual touches either.)

Those who love Hitchcock for only his "trademarks" perhaps need to look a little harder and think a little deeper, and then they will appreciate this excellent film.

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