Movie Review: A Life at Stake (1955)

Synopsis: Down-on-his-luck architect Edward Shaw is introduced to the flirtatious Doris Hillman, who offers him $500,000 to partner with her in a real estate business. Drawn in by both the money and the possibility of a romantic tryst with the married Doris, Shaw accepts. However, when Doris' husband, Gus, who is bankrolling the business, insists on Shaw taking out a $175,000 life insurance policy, the architect begins to suspect he is a victim of fraud, and his life is in danger.

Who's in it? The movie stars Angela Lansbury, Keith Andes, Douglass Dumbrille, Claudia Barrett and Jane Darwell.

Review: I came across this film on Epix early this morning and, while I thought the plot sounded a bit predictable, I decided to give the movie a chance. After watching it, I do have to say the movie did exceed my expectations and I wound up enjoying it.

I think the thing I liked best about this movie was the way it set up the main plot gradually and in a way that made it difficult to tell if Shaw (Andes) was really in danger or if he was just imagining things. Helping with this was the subtle ways the film showed Shaw's natural paranoia. He didn't trust people around the $1,000 bill he kept in a frame and seemed to have an overall lack of trust when around others.

Even when it became a bit more likely his life really was in danger, it was still difficult to tell who, exactly, was behind it. While Gus Hillman (Dumbrille) seemed like the most likely suspect, especially since he caught Shaw and Doris (Lansbury) kissing, I wasn't completely convinced Doris was innocent in all of this. Was she trying to seduce Shaw because she really had feelings for him? Or was her attempted seduction just a way to lure him in further and keep his guard down? To tell you the truth, I'm still not fully sure of the answer.

I also wasn't 100 percent sure how Doris' sister, Madge (Barrett) fit in. She was young and seemed innocent but, at the same time, I found it hard to believe she wasn't in on the plot as well. She could have been there to keep tabs on Shaw or maybe was being used as a secondary lure for him, just in case he didn't fall for Doris' charms. 

Not to mention, I couldn't completely rule out the possibility of her being the real killer, striking down men out of jealousy toward her sister rather than for money (something that, in the context of the movie, seemed very plausible). This lack of certainty did keep the movie from becoming anywhere near as predictable as I was expecting it to be, even though the actual storyline honestly didn't have a whole lot of surprise twists.

Final Opinion: This is a decent movie with an interesting plot and multiple people who may or may not be trying to kill the protagonist. I enjoyed watching it and would recommend it.

My Grade: A


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