Man Afraid (1957)

Man Afraid (1957) is a morality murder widescreen revenge, religion and child film noir from late in the cycle, dealing with issues of culpability and trauma, in the light of a Christian minister accidentally killing a young burglar.

This fascinating tale is told as mentioned in ludicrous wide-screen, giving extra inches of enjoyment on either side of the action, and often leaving large black and white expanses of unfilled space, ready to be made into any flavour director Harry Keller can conceive.

Despite the religious consultant mentioned int he credits however this is not a religious movie, but just so happens to be a movie about a religious man.
With an epic pathetic homicide self-defense killing George Nader takes out an armed and dangerous killer with a snow-globe in one of the most bathetic anti-cimactic anti-Kane scenes in noir, in whicb a man is felled by nothing more than a child's snow globe ina  strange and non-satisfting plot concoction.

The flick delves deep into the shadows, grappling with the aftermath of a harrowing ordeal, one that shatters the facade of tranquility for a man of the cloth thrust into the abyss of the unexpected.

But amidst the turmoil, there lingers a sense of disquiet, a gnawing uncertainty that tugs at the edges of David's consciousness. His stoic demeanor belies the tempest raging within, torn between the demands of his duty and the primal instinct to shield his own kin from the encroaching darkness. Yet, in his flawed humanity, David's struggles resonate—a testament to the frailty of the human spirit in the face of unfathomable tragedy.

As David navigates the treacherous waters of his son's trauma, a shadowy figure lurks in the periphery, a sinister specter haunting the edges of his consciousness. The police lieutenant, gruff and unyielding, offers little solace in the midst of David's turmoil, his brusque demeanor a stark reminder of the harsh realities of the world.

Television versus film noir in Man Afraid (1957)

But beneath the veneer of toughness lies a kernel of truth—a reflection of the complexities of human nature, where empathy and pragmatism collide in a delicate dance. In the lieutenant's curt words, there lies a wisdom born of harsh experience, a recognition of the limits of justice in a world teetering on the edge of chaos.

Amidst the turmoil, the backdrop of Santa Monica serves as a silent witness to the unfolding drama, its sun-drenched streets a stark contrast to the darkness lurking within. And in the supporting players—Reta Shaw and Martin Milner—a glimmer of hope flickers amidst the gloom, their performances lending a touch of humanity to the bleak landscape.

Domestic suburban affairs as portrayed in Man Afraid (1957)

But it is the young Troy Donahue who steals the scene, his presence a harbinger of the trials yet to come. Directed by the seasoned hand of Harry Keller and underscored by the haunting melodies of Henry Mancini, "MAN AFRAID" stands as a testament to the enduring allure of noir cinema—a journey into the heart of darkness, where fear reigns supreme and redemption lies just beyond the shadows.

The most terrifying suspense your heart has ever felt!

In this gritty tale of suspense, the spotlight falls upon young Tim Hovey, a boy stalked relentlessly by the haunting presence of Eduard Franz, whose portrayal is a masterclass in brooding menace. Franz embodies the grief-stricken father driven to the brink of madness by the loss of his son—a loss that ignites a fiery desire for vengeance, consuming his very soul in its relentless pursuit.

Enter George Nader as the conflicted minister, thrust into a maelstrom of chaos and despair. His wife, the vulnerable Phyllis Thaxter, bears the scars of a harrowing home invasion, her world forever altered by the cruel hand of fate. Amidst the turmoil, Reta Shaw emerges as a beacon of warmth and strength, her portrayal of the indomitable nurse a welcome respite amidst the darkness that threatens to engulf them all.

Mabel Albertson, in a departure from her usual roles, adds a layer of complexity as the outspoken landlady, her accusations casting a shadow of doubt upon Nader's conscience, already burdened by the weight of accidental tragedy. And who could forget Martin Milner, a familiar face among the parishioners, his presence a reminder of the fragile thread that binds them all together.

Yet, amidst the chaos, there lies a deeper truth—a rumination on the nature of fate and the capricious whims of destiny. The spiritual undertones serve as a poignant reminder that, in a world governed by faith and belief, the sins of the past can never truly be erased.

The climax, a symphony of tension and release, unfolds with a precision that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats. Henry Mancini's evocative score, a departure from his usual fare, lends a sense of urgency to the proceedings, while the stark black-and-white cinematography adds a layer of atmosphere to the unfolding drama.

In the end, Man Afraid (1957) emerges as an interesting set of commentaries on some key film noir themes, including television itself, and does so with a sound stab at suspense and intrigue — a testament to the enduring power of cinema to captivate and enthral. From its gripping narrative to its stunning visuals, this is a film that lingers in the mind long after the credits roll, a testament to the timeless allure of the silver screen.

In the shadowy depths of a priest's home, terror strikes with ruthless force, shattering the tranquility of family life in a single, fateful moment. George Nader, as the tormented clergyman, finds himself thrust into a nightmarish ordeal when a prowler invades his sanctum, plunging his loved ones into a maelstrom of fear and uncertainty.

In a desperate bid to protect his son and wife from harm, Nader's character confronts the intruder, triggering a violent struggle that culminates in tragedy. As the burglar falls, his life extinguished in a flash of primal instinct, Nader is left grappling with the weight of unintended consequences—a burden that threatens to consume his very soul.

But the nightmare is far from over. The aftermath of the deadly encounter reveals a new horror lurking in the shadows—a grief-stricken father, consumed by an insatiable thirst for vengeance. Silent and implacable, he stalks Nader's son with relentless determination, his motives obscured by the depths of his despair.

As Nader wrestles with his conscience, the film delves into the complexities of fatherhood and wrestles with child boxing — a tapestry of failed dreams, shattered hopes, and unspoken anguish. Each character grapples with their own demons, haunted by the spectre of mortality and the inescapable grip of fate.

Child boxing match in Man Afraid (1957)

At the heart of it all lies Henry Mancini's haunting score—a symphony of dread and desperation that echoes the inner turmoil of the protagonists. Its brutal, subconsciously suggestive tones serve as a chilling reminder of the fragility of existence, a relentless drumbeat driving the narrative forward into the darkest recesses of the human psyche.

In its exploration of conscience, despair, and death,  Man Afraid (1957) emerges as a singular masterpiece—a gripping tale that defies easy categorization and challenges the very boundaries of cinematic expression. With its bold narrative and evocative imagery, it stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling to illuminate the depths of the human experience.

Television, child boxing match and crime solving in film noir Man Afraid (1957)

Man Afraid (1957)

Directed by Harry Keller

Written by Herb Meadow

Story by Daniel B. Ullman

Produced by Gordon Kay

Starring George Nader * Phyllis Thaxter * Tim Hovey

Cinematography Russell Metty

Edited by Ted J. Kent

Music by Henry Mancini

Production company: Universal Pictures

Distributed by Universal Pictures

Release date April 4, 1957

Running time 84 minutes

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