Above Suspicion (1943)

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Original plot
Fred MacMurray and Mommie Dearest infiltrate the Third Reich while on their honeymoon like it ain’t no thing.

Big thoughts
“Oh, Richard – we’re spies!” is a kickass line.

The Random Remake
Frances and Richard Myles (Tom Hiddleston and Diane Kruger) are on their honeymoon in Europe, milling about in various grand hotels in various cities. Richard is the son of a wealthy Wall Street tycoon, and he is world-wise. He met Frances in Berlin, where they married. It’s on a French beach resort where Richard starts to befriend the husband of an older couple, Stanford Aschen (Mark Strong). Richard even rearranges the rest of their honeymoon to spend more time at the resort.

Soon Richard concocts a story to have dinner with Aschen, forcing Frances into the ruse. When she confronts him about his weird ways, he confesses: his job is to investigate financial marks for his father. Richard makes his way around the world acting like a spoiled rich boy when he is in fact pumping CEOs around the world for info his father can use to buy or dump stocks via a secret shadow trading firm. “How do you think we met,” Richard asks Frances, prompting a flashback of her Richard suddenly asking her out at her college campus she taught at, when it turns out he really needed a date to infiltrate a glam ball a CEO was attending. “It’s easy for me to move anywhere these guys are,” he says. “I’m above suspicion.” Frances is upset at the subterfuge, but tells Richard that she saw more in him than the legacy child front he put on – just not that she suspected this is his true face.

Aschen is more than meets than eye, however, and Richard and Frances are confronted by Mossad agent Henry Seidel (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) when Seidel notices how close they are to Aschen. Seidel spins a story of how Aschen’s firm is financing arms deals with rouge Middle Eastern countries. “That’s all I need to know,” Richard says, acting as if he’s going to give up his work on Aschen because he’ll tell his father to dump the stock. But Frances interjects: “Oh Richard, we’re already spies!”

Frances and Richard keep up the ruse and eventually plant surveillance equipment on Aschen. Seidel is satisfied and releases the Myleses from their mission. “You’re too good at this,” Richard tells Frances. “I’m two for two with you.” “Well, where to next,” she asks, rubbing her hands.

The pitch
Above Suspicion: A honeymoon behind enemy lines

Next up: My Favorite Brunette (1947)

The Big Combo (1955)

poster Joseph H. Lewis The Big Combo DVD Review

Original plot
A dogged detective almost loses himself in pursuit of a nasty mob boss. Yep, that old chestnut.

Big thoughts
Damn, the villain is villainous in this thing. Straight up tortures a police officer and murders his rivals and associates. Is this when the Hayes Code died?

The Random Remake
Police Lt. Leonard Diamond (Jonah Hill) is investigating the supposed murder of Alicia Brown, the wife of an alleged meth underboss in and around Baltimore called only by his associates as “Mr. Brown” (Emile Hirsch). Everyone around the city tells the story that the mob chief, known as Grazzi, knocked off Alicia as punishment for Brown getting too high and mighty. With the police closing in, Grazzi goes into hiding and Brown has assumed the leadership of the combination syndicate.

Diamond’s superiors aren’t happy with his crusade against the syndicate, and his captain reminds him the department has no funds for repeated, unsuccessful attempts to keep going after Grazzi. The captain reminds him of the litany of failures (and costs associated) with the investigation, including serving 75 of 76 warrants to known hoodlums, etc. Diamond pleads with the captain and tells him that the murder case has the potential to bring the whole organization down. The captain lets it go, but says that at the first sign of a misstep or wasted funds and the case is closed and Diamond will move on.

Diamond then interrogates Brown, including Brown’s mistress Susan (Antje Traue). Brown hints that he’s just as keen as Diamond is to find Grazzi and avenge his wife – telling him that “they’re on the same team.” Diamond scoffs at this and tells him that along with taking down Grazzi he’s coming after Brown, too.

Through flashbacks we see that Diamond and Brown were high school friends who veered onto different tracks. On top of that, both have a history with Susan. Diamond’s crusade against the syndicate is as much about rescuing Susan as it is about justice.

During the investigation two of Brown’s hoods Fante and Mingo harass Diamond and at one point even torture him by wearing ear plugs and blasting music at Diamond’s head (Brown orders no marks be left on Diamond). But the lieutenant is undeterred, even as his partners in the force give up. Next he’s following Susan all over town, sometimes stopping her to talk. Through following her he also spies Fante and Mingo and follows them, seeing them frequently stop at a convenience store. That night Diamond raids the store and interrogates a low-level associate of the syndicate. He says he gives Fante and Mingo burner phones, scratch tickets, money wire transfers for protection. “Transfers to whom?” Diamond asks. Upon seeing the receipts he notices a repeated name – Annalee Jackson. Diamond tracks down the account to another city and finds Annalee Jackson, and he recognizes her immediately – it’s Alicia Brown! Through some tough questioning Diamond breaks her; Brown killed Grazzi to take over his outfit and created a new life for Alicia as a cover story. With this story Diamond flips Susan, who doesn’t take kindly to the wife still being around, and they go after Brown, who is attempting to flee in a chartered plane. In a foggy fight, Diamond takes down Brown before the plane leaves the hanger, and leaves the scene with Susan.

The pitch
The Big Combo: First is first. Second is nobody.

Next up: Above Suspicion (1943)