House of Strangers DVD
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Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz
Produced in 1949
Main Language - English
Countries & Regions - American film
Edward G Robinson give a powerhouse performance in this explosive drama about a crumbling banking empire. It's enough to show why he was numbered among the greats, writes James Oliver.
Edward G Robinson wasn't the most glamorous of movie stars – he looked like the proverbial bulldog chewing the equally proverbial wasp – but if you've ever wondered how this homely fellow got his name above the title, settle down with House of Strangers. Herein is all that is needed to explain why he deserves to be numbered amongst the greats.
It's all the more remarkable since he doesn't appear for the first 15 minutes. That's taken up with Max Monetti's return from jail. Max (Conte) has been in the hoosegow for seven years, brooding on revenge against his three brothers who sent him there.
This introduction establishes the film as a crime drama; it's even been described as a film noir, which is isn't – Mankiewicz was too refined to get the necessary dirt under his fingernails. But there's a lot more going on here, as the flashback that fills in the backstory reveals.
This is where we meet Robinson, playing Gino Monetti, a jowly Italian patriarch who has worked his fingers to the bone building a successful bank. It's taken its toll on his family life – of his progeny, only Max has a good word to say about the old man. So when the authorities sniff impropriety at Gino's establishment (it's set in the 1930s), only Max is willing to help, at huge cost to himself.
There are obvious echoes of King Lear here (although the film pivots into more unexpected territory) and Robinson plays it accordingly. True, he does so with an accent apparently inspired by a Dolmio commercial but look into his eyes: this performance is a reminder that great acting is much more than technical flummery. Robinson creates a real character, imbued with a nuance rarely found in golden age Hollywood. No wonder he won the Best Actor award at Cannes in 1949.
A tale of usurious bankers and the corrupting taint of big money has a certain topicality; some viewers might find the sight of venal moneymen getting their comeuppance an additional draw. But make no mistake, it's Eddie G who is the star attraction here, amply justifying his reputation.
James Oliver on 18th July 2012
Author of 146 reviews
An explosive drama, House of Strangers saw Edward G Robinson win the 1949 Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his powerhouse performance as a domineering Italian father.
Gino Monetti (Edward G Robinson) is a self-made man, an Italian immigrant who has dragged himself up from the slums of New York to be president of his own bank. The struggle has made him hard and bitter – alienating him from three of his sons.
Monetti is still close to his fourth son Max (Richard Conte), a sharp lawyer with an even sharper society girlfriend (Susan Hayward). As Monetti’s banking empire begins to crumble, tensions within the family reach boiling point - and thoughts turn to revenge - and murder.
Publisher: Odeon Entertainment
Length: 97 mins
Aspect ratio: 4:3
Cat No: ODNF352
Format: DVD B&W
- Digitally restored and remastered Picture and Sound
- Audio Commentary with Film Historian and author Foster Hirsch
- Poster Gallery
- Production Stills Gallery
- Unit Photography Gallery
- Theatrical Trailer
- Collector's Booklet.