Genre Grandeur – Nightmare Alley (1947) – The Flapper Dame


For this month’s next review for Genre Grandeur – Comedies that feature characters who are either Stoners or Drunk here’s a review of Nightmare Alley (1947) by Emily of The Flapper Dame.

Thanks again to Jason Soto of The Rabbit Hole Podcasts for choosing this month’s genre.

Next month’s genre has been chosen by Jason Stershic of Agent Palmer and we will be reviewing our favorite College Themed Films.

Please get me your submissions by the 25th of Feb by sending them to collegejason@movierob.net

Try to think out of the box! Great choice Jason!

Let’s see what Emily thought of this movie:

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1947’s Nightmare Alley starring Tyrone Power is a film about a man’s downward spiral. Yet, instead of becoming more and more depressing of a viewing (like They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?), it becomes more fascinating and intriguing as it goes on. Sure one could go out and watch the remake, but why do that when the original is already a timeless picture!

Nightmare Alley (1947) - IMDb
(IMDB) THE ORIGINAL!

Honestly, the first time I ever saw this film, I didn’t care for it. It was summer 2015 and I watched it on my phone (a horrible method to watch long form videos) and I just lost interest in it once the narrative moved away from the carnival. Thankfully, my unpleasant viewing can be blamed on my viewing method. My second viewing came in 2021, when Criterion released it, and it was a far better experience.

Nightmare Alley tells the tale of carnie Stan Carlisle (Tyrone Power). Stan starts off as the average carnie, working for the main attraction, Zeena (Joan Blondell) the mind reader and her assistant, the alcoholic Pete.

While the character of Pete played by Ian Keith doesn’t have very much screen time, his character is actually crucial because he serves as a cautionary model for Stan.

Unfortunately for Stan, the power to move up comes at the misfortune of others. Stan does move up to be the new mind reader with fellow carnie, Molly (Colleen Grey), but is forevermore haunted by a terrible accident of which he is responsible. (Seriously, I’m not gonna spoil it because its so good, I’m not gonna ruin key plot points from your viewing enjoyment!)

Eventually Stan and Molly become so successful they marry, leave the carnival and dazzle people with their, “mind reading abilities”, but eventually Stan meets his match in a psychiatrist, Lillith (Helen Walker). Together they plan to scam people: Stan can use his code to read minds, while Lillith can engage them in their deepest thoughts. Yet, it doesn’t take long for Stan to go from being the con to becoming the conned. Thus, he falls further and further until he becomes what he once felt sorry for: an alcoholic (and that’s only the personal part, not the professional).

TYPOWERNIGHTMAREALLEY
Mister, Tyrone Power was made for this role!

What makes this picture so likable is the fact Tyrone Power got to prove his acting chops. He wanted to perform a wide range of characters, not just dashing adventure hero or swash buckler. With Nightmare Power gets to be the anti-hero, and a guy who falls so far that by the end the audience has run out of pity. Yet, at the same time, you still care about Stan, because he’s so likable.

Overall, Nightmare Alley is a fascinating film. Its psychological, thrilling, mysterious, and even film noir.
Sure the remake has all of the CGI effects and full color displays of vibrant carnival life, but the original has originality in spades- plus Hollywood legends. I can’t not mention what a scene stealer Joan Blondell is. Her role as Zeena has a limited appearance, but your eyes are on her every minute you see her.

In pictures, very rarely do you have films that undergo an audience reception transformation. The 1947 version will forever live as a piece of postwar angst and fear. It’s a piece of history and even if you’ve seen the 2021 version, the original is still a must see! 

 
 

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