Storm Fear (1955)

  • Year: 1955
  • Released: 01 Feb 1956
  • Country: United States
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  • Available in: 720p, 1080p,
  • Language: English
  • MPA Rating: Approved
  • Genre: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir
  • Runtime: 88 min
  • Writer: Horton Foote, Clinton Seeley
  • Director: Cornel Wilde
  • Cast: Cornel Wilde, Jean Wallace, Dan Duryea
  • Keywords: farm, film noir, on the run, new england, blizzard,
58% – Critics
58% – Audience

Storm Fear Storyline

After a failed robbery, a gang of criminals led by Charlie Blake hides in a secluded mountain house in New England, where Charlie’s brother, unsuccessful writer Fred Blake, lives with his family. During his stay in the house, a whole tangle of contradictions and conflicts between family members, as well as complex relationships in the gang, unfolds before the eyes of the Blakes’ young son.—Tango Papa

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Storm Fear Movie Reviews

Should Have Stayed Indoors

This is a strange Low-Budget, well Cast Thriller and is a first time Directorial effort from Cornel Wilde. It is the claustrophobic first half that works best as tensions mount and identities are revealed. As things open up later, in the snowy outdoors, it turns rather routine as its limitations are exposed.

There is an attempt at some unusual Family situations that adds some verisimilitude and in Film-Noir tradition all the Characters are flawed. If things were kept indoors the tension would be almost unbearable, but as it is, the last third seems more like typical Hollywood.

Although the Child is central to the Plot and is crucial to the Theme of things gone wrong and regretful behavior, it is ironically left to the Pre-Teen to carry the emotional baggage at the end and it doesn’t quite come off as a satisfying closing to the Family Circle. Certainly worth a view because it is a bit different, but the final Act is just too pat and seems a lot less believable than what went before.

Storm Fear (1955)

A struggling writer and his family are visited at their remote mountain farm by his brother — a wounded bank robber on the lam. Cornel Wilde directed eight films in his lifetime (seven of them, like this one, starring himself) and this was his first. And a superior first film it is, one I liked much more than NAKED PREY. Elevated far above the usual hostage drama by the strained familial relations and internal strife within each group. The interactions between the players are leaden with sorrow, failure and the ghosts of past regrets. Every character occupies a gray area, conflicted and/or damaged. Even the young boy plays a crucial role beyond being just an adorable moppet in jeopardy. The exception is the sidekick character who is pretty much your standard bad guy, but even he is given life with an engaging performance by Steven Hill. The whole cast is great: Lee Grant as the shabby dame, Jean Wallace as the wife with some secrets of her own, Dan Duryea again impressing me with a role outside his usual mold, Dennis Weaver as the hired hand, and of course Wilde. He makes an interesting choice to play the character with a slight stammer, hinting at the doubts that gnaw at him. The script is thoughtful and gripping, with a few great hard-boiled zingers for Grant and Hill. I also have to mention the music, yet another sublime score by Elmer Bernstein. This is an outstanding picture that takes unexpected turns and is heavy with melancholy and desperation. It needs a restoration and DVD release immediately.

They’re still sparking

Cornel Wilde who preferred to chart his own course in independent film making as opposed to going to television as so many of his contemporaries were doing made a fine one with Storm Fear. As per usual his wife Jean Wallace joined in the endeavor. It must have been good for him as well as financing for his movies to have a leading lady instantly available.

In this film Wilde is a nominal bad guy. A charming bank robber at least as far as the women are concerned. At least as far as Jean Wallace is concerned as they had a son together, but it was Wilde’s older brother Dan Duryea, a would be novelist who married Wallace and carried on the fiction that he was David Stollery’s father. They live in a remote area of one of our Rocky Mountain states.

Wilde’s just robbed a bank and he and his two surviving accomplices, Lee Grant and Steven Hill head for the Duryea-Wallace farm as a hideout and to recuperate as Wilde was shot in the holdup. Of course while they’re there Duryea spots some sparks between Wilde and Wallace.

Wilde who directed as well as played the lead got some complex emotions out of his players. He’s a bad guy, but still charming in his own way and protects his family from what a psychotic Steven Hill might do. Wallace is still in love with Wilde, but knows full well what a charming liar he is. Duryea is a decent, but inadequate man who knows he’s been a failure far from his usual variety of psychotic villains.

Before Kirk Douglas’s more celebrated breaking of the blacklist with hiring Dalton Trumbo for the Spartacus screenplay, Wilde did some blacklist breaking of his own in hiring Lee Grant in what turned out to be only her second feature film. Grant does very well in a role that calls for her to be a good natured gangster’s moll who meets with a tragic end. In fact the most straight forward part in the film is that played by Dennis Weaver as the hired hand on the Duryea-Wallace farm who goes chasing the robbers.

Wilde assembled a fine supporting cast to support him as an actor and his vision as producer/director. One reason he could hire Lee Grant was because he was producer of Storm Fear which was released by United Artists. He created a real winner here.