Cornell Woolrich, along with Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain, was one of the creators of the noir genre. He is the author of many seminal works including REAR WINDOW, the basis of the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock masterpiece starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly.
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Cornell Woolrich was a true original - a man who, apart from visits to the local bar etc, and a sojourn in Hollywood which proved disastrous, spent most of his life in a run down apartment living with his mother. But whose vivid imagination caused him to create some of the most chilling and thrilling tales ever put down on paper.
This selection is linked to Alfred Hitchcock. "Rear Window" is just a classic (I hate that word) Hitchcock movie with James Stewart, the beautiful Grace Kelly, the always welcome Thelma Ritter and last but not least, the menacing Raymond Burr. The original story is every bit as thrilling, the women are dispensed with and it is a war of wits beween Hal Jeffries and Lars Thorwald who may or may not have killed his wife. The scene were Hal phones him anonymously but then their eyes meet, is every bit as suspenseful as the movie. Another neat bit is you don't actually realise until the end that Hal is hampered because of a broken leg - it couldn't have worked (obviously) in the movie but here it definately adds to the tension.
"Change of Murder" was one of Woolrich's earliest published crime stories (1936) and found it's way onto season one of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" as "The Big Switch". It definately doesn't have the thrills and tension of his later stories but is set in an era Woolrich had a lot of affinity for - the roaring twenties. It tells the story of "Brains" Donlevy who organises an alibi with "Fade" Williams so he can safely pop out and murder his two timing mistress Goldie but "Brains" careful planning comes unstuck with the O'Henry twist at the end.
Originally titled "Murder Gathers Momentum", "Momentum" was the last episode from season one but instead of a young couple (Joanne Woodward in an early role), the original story features a more believable older hard bitten victim of the depression who is driven to desperation and eventually murder by the recovery of some money he is owed by his former boss. Once again a neat twist at the end shows that Paine should have checked with his wife.
"Three O'Clock" is one of Woolrich's most gripping stories. It had been dramatized on all the great mystery theatres from TV's golden age but, once again, it took Hitchcock's direction on a 1957 "Suspense" program to really do it justice. Mr. Stapp is convinced his wife is playing around and in his warped way determines she will not get away with it. He concocts a home made bomb, designed to blow the house and, hopefully, Fran, sky high at three o'clock but he is disturbed by robbers who tie him up so he will not call the police. It is then a race against time to attract someone, anyone's attention so he will be saved.
Last but not least, "Post Mortem", originally an episode of season three and starring Joanna Moore (Tatum O'Neal's mother). The story is all about Mrs. Archer who suddenly realises a winning betting slip is in the suit her late husband is buried in. The body is exhumed and the helpful policeman who initially poses as a reporter suspects foul play - with Mrs. Archer on her way to becoming the next victim.
You can't go wrong with these stories from the master.
5,0 su 5 stelleWoolrich, the greatest suspense author of all time
24 agosto 2001 - Pubblicato su Amazon.com
After years of having only one small volume of Cornell Woolrich's short suspense stories in print, this new volume is a major cause for celebration. It collects 13 of his works ranging from his earliest pulp stories ("Dead on Her Feet") to his last, sparse years ("For the Rest of Her Life"). The contents will be familiar to Woolrich fans, who have been able to dig up many of these stories in old anthologies, but it is wonderful to have them in a clean new collection -- with a thrilling cover. And for those of you new to Woolrich, you are in for a treat. Settle back in your armchair and dim the lights...you're in for a terrifying ride. Woolrich can cram more tension, anguish, and despair into his noir nightmare tales than any other author living or dead. He practically invented the noir genre, and once you get a taste of his riveting work, you'll never get enough of it again. This collection contains: "Rear Window", "I Won't Take a Minute", "Speak to Me of Death", "The Dancing Detective" (a.k.a. "Dime a Dance"), "The Light in the Window", "The Corpse Next Door", "You'll Never See Me Again", "The Screaming Laugh", "Dead on Her Feet", "Waltz", "The Book That Squealed", "Death Escapes the Eye", and "For the Rest of Her Life." My personal favorite is the last, the story that originlly hooked me on Woolrich. It's a terrifying tale of a woman's attempt to escape an abusive relationship. There are many other classics here, such as "Death Escapes the Eye", a subtle tale about the death of love -- and maybe another death as well. "Dead on Her Feet" is a grim short about police brutality, and "I Won't Take a Minute" and "You'll Never See Me Again" deal in one of Woolrich's favorite subjects: the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of a loved one and the panicked and hopeless search for them. "Speak to Me of Death" is a wonderfully depressing meditation on the fear of death and the horrific power of fate. Woolrich later lengthened it into the novel _Night Has a Thousand Eyes_. "The Screaming Laugh", "Waltz", and "The Book That Squealed" are lesser works, but still classics of their genre. And, of course, the title story isn't a classic for nothing: it's a chilling account of suspicion and entrapment in every way the equal of the Hitchcock film that followed it. The volume also contains a short but insightful introduction that explains how Woolrich's dismal life is mirrored in his fiction. Understanding Woolrich's personal nightmares is helpful in appreciating his fictional ones. If you like mystery and suspense, or just plain great writing, BUY THIS BOOK. And tell all your friends to as well. We need more Woolrich in print. And be sure to purchase NIGHT AND FEAR, a new Woolrich collection. BOTTOM LINE: an eclectic brew murder and suspense -- and some of the finest work you will read anywhere. It is NOT hit and miss. Every piece is a gem. This is NOT literary junk food. Woolrich is one of the masters of American literature, deserving of great respect. Recommended to everyone who reads.
Edition being reviewed: Ballantine Books March 1984.
This volume contains 5 short stories by the legendary master of suspense, terror and dread Cornell Woolrich. The common denominator shared by all 5 is that each was adapted by Alfred Hitchcock for either motion pictures (Rear Window) or television (the 4 others). A short, interesting introduction by Woolrich biographer Francis Nevins is also included.
-Rear Window: A 40 page short story about a murder that may or may not have taken place. This claustrophobic tale of suspense had to be greatly expanded and embellished to be transformed to the classic Hitchcock movie. Grade: B -Post-Mortem: One doesn't read the works of Cornell Woolrich expecting much in the way of plausibility. But this particular yarn is a monstrosity of incoherence. Lacks even rudimentary narrative unity. Grade: F. -Three O'clock: A man's own murderous impulse leads to his unbearably excruciating encounter with impending doom. A classic example of the author's ability to impact readers in a very visceral way. Grade: B. -Change of Murder: Damon Runyon meets O Henry. A worthwhile read whose value lies in its humor, not in the qualities one usually associates with Woolrich's fiction. Grade: B+. -Momentum: One man's inevitable downward spiral into oblivion as only Woolrich could have described it. Grade: C.
Bottom line: One disastrous story (Post-Mortem) and 4 others that range from okay to quite good. Overall rating; a solid 3 stars. Though those readers wishing to award this book 4 stars wouldn't get much argument from me.
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