Psychological thrillers are some of my favorite film plots. They are a great source of suspense and drama. As soon as I read the plot of Beware, My Lovely I had to see it (and it did not hurt that Ida Lupino is the star). From the moment the “bad guy” walks into the house the tension builds like a rollercoaster to the time he walks out.
Howard Wilton (Robert Ryan) is a handyman. One day when he has finished working at someone’s home he opens a door and finds the woman who hired him lying dead on the ground. Afraid, Howard runs and jumps on a train.
Helen Gordon (Lupino) is a widow living in a big house by herself out in California. She has one border in her house, Mr. Armstrong, who is going on vacation for some time to the east. Helen is frantically trying to get her house in order and buy gifts for the local children who come by her house. The day before she hired Howard to come and help her with some things.
Howard arrives at the house just as Mr. Armstrong is leaving. The local dog that comes to Helen’s house as well barks at Howard and bites the end of his coat. Mr. Armstrong laughs at the dog biting the coat. Helen sets Howard to work waxing the floors and other various small chores. While waxing the floors Helen’s bratty niece Ruthanne comes back from running errands for her aunt. Ruthanne taunts Howard and teases him before she leaves.
When Helen comes back downstairs, Howard snaps and his true side comes out. The poor man is ill with some kind of mental disease. Helen tries to be kind to him and tell him things will work out all while she is visibly frightened. Nothing she says to try to calm Howard works. When she tries to run out of the house for help she finds that he has locked the front and back doors. Howard has made Helen a prisoner in her own home. There are so many unsettling times when Helen thinks that Howard has left the house and she feel she is safe again only for him to show up to terrorize her more.
The layout of the house really adds to the intensity of the story. As Helen tries to flee we find along with her which ones work and which ones do not. The house is so big that it does not feel that inviting.
I am not going to go into too much detail because anything I say will most likely give away the good parts of the story. What this story so intense was that Howard would have black outs and not remember what he did during those. He was not an outwardly violent, angry man he was just sick and honestly did not know what he was doing. That is what is scary about Howard and the film, he is not evil in the sense you would normally think. He does not want to harm Helen he just wants to be understood.
Ida Lupino and Robert Ryan were great in their roles. Lupino is such a good actress. You could see the distress, fright, and emotion on her face all the time she is trying to hide behind a false calmness. That could not have been easy but Lupino nailed it. Robert Ryan I have never seen in a film before this but I liked him.
Beware, My Lovely is a very good suspense films. The title is not the best and does not seem to fit the film at all but really that is the only flaw in noticed. Beware, My Lovely is not available on DVD nor is it on youtube at this time. I recorded the film off of TCM last month.