Hidden Fear (1957)

Hidden Fear (1957) is something of a curiosity at the tail end of the film noir cycle, and that curiosity largely arises from the fact that it is set in Denmark.

The logic behind this is not clear, and some of the film in general suffers from this lack of clarity too.

Some of the more obvious film noir strings are not pulled, and were it not for John Payne in the lead role, bullying and slapping his way around the Danish capital, there may not be much noir left at all to enjoy.

Hidden Fear is a linear thriller, which does its best to make a virtue of its location shooting, but does not manage to raise any particular tension, or find any depth in its stroll through the Danish underworld.

Certain classic film noir complexities are missing from Hidden Fear, and it even misses a trick as it fails to capitalise on the very real central European paranoia rife across the continent in the early years of the Cold War.

John Payne in Hidden Fear (1957)

The film noir elements which do work here well are the tropes of revenge and intrigue, and the urban surrounds in this case of an architecturally interesting European city.

In Hidden Fear (1957), John Payne plays a homicide cop who's in Copenhagen because his sister Natalie Norwick's got herself in a mess with the Danish police. She's accused of murdering her boyfriend who was something of a lowlife, and taking charge as an American must, Payne starts running his own investigation. 

It turns out pretty soon that the boyfriend was trying to move in on a counterfeiting scheme that Alexander Knox and Conrad Nagel are running.

Noir City Copenhagen - - Anne Neyland and John Payne in Hidden Fear (1957)

Payne's truculent attitude and propensity to slap and bully when he feels like it probably do cut a few corners, but the Danish cops probably were well on the way toward learning the truth. 

Hidden Fear (1957)

Many of the exteriors are shot on location and make atmospheric use of the city. The interior set pieces, however, are where the film really separates itself from the standard film noir style. 

Film Noir has always been influenced by and descended from, German Expressionism, and the set pieces and lighting here are at times almost Caligari like, and occasion the characters move through the dark Danish rooms and corridors like wraiths. Then it's to the countryside.

Escape fropm Copenhagen - - Anne Neyland and John Payne in Hidden Fear (1957)

The film culminates with a spectacular chase scene that makes extensive and impressive use of helicopter shots, perhaps the most ambitious use of such angles since Nicholas Ray's impressive They Live by Night, released a whole decade before this film.

John Payne's film noir career had matured with the times and with his own development. Now middle-aged, he stepped away from playing pretty boys and acted in some dark films like Kansas City Confidential (1952), and 99 River Street (1953).

John Payne in Hidden Fear (1957)

Hidden Fear doesn't reach the existential and violent heights of these two movies, but has a crack at the game nonetheless. 

Like most Andre de Toth films, it's also very nicely shot with the cinematography doing a fine job of capturing the high life and the low life of the Danish capital. 

At the same time, the concept of an American cop coming to Denmark, launching his own investigation into one of their cases that takes place off their radar and then having those same Danish cops warm up to him and basically hand him the reins seems whacky.

But this is film noir and cop Mike is rough around the edges. This makes him an interesting character to watch, as he bitch slaps his own sister and roughs up whoever he feels he needs to rough up.

Slapping for justice -- John Payne in Hidden Fear (1957)

The much slapped around and manipulated female characters might be bad women by the standards of Movie-land, but unlike femme fatales they're not pulling any strings. These are active and usually willing participants in the amoral, patriarchal games of film noir.

Hidden Fear on public display at Wikipedia

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