The Verdict (1946)

The Verdict (1946) is an historical chiller thriller police versus killer film noir, and noir boy genius' Don Siegel's first directorial work.

With the smoke over the sound stage and the shadow chasing bulky form of Sidney Greenstreet and character actors galore to boot, The Verdict plays an old time turna the century London vibe as upped with character as any other in the foggy-noir sub genre.

This classic of foggy noir has more than a few twists to turn your interest to it, superior in depth perhaps if less held together in the low key nature of the incidents, while playing in turn for a kind of horror, the very possible horror of having condemned an innocent man, while coupled with smug 1890s Victorian era cop shop workplace bullying.

The Verdict (1946) is a gripping mystery film set in the late Victorian era, around 1890. The story revolves around Superintendent George Edward Grodman, portrayed by Sydney Greenstreet, who mistakenly sends an innocent man to his death. 

Sydney Greenstreet in The Verdict (1946)

This error costs Grodman his job and tarnishes his long-standing reputation. His successor, the ambitious Superintendent John R. Buckley (George Coulouris), becomes his rival.

George Coulouris in The Verdict (1946)

Grodman, now retired, decides to write about his past cases, aiming to educate future detectives. However, he’s drawn back into detective work when Arthur Kendall is murdered nearby. Kendall’s landlady seeks Grodman’s help, leading him to discover that Kendall’s aunt was the woman whose death led to the wrongful execution. 

Dream on film noir with Sydney Greenstreet and George Coulouris in The Verdict (1946)

The plot thickens as Kendall had visited Grodman before his death, along with Grodman’s friend Peter Emmric (Peter Lorre) and a politician, Clive Russell (Paul Cavanagh), who despised Kendall.

The film excels due to the stellar performances of its cast, particularly Greenstreet and Lorre. Cavanagh and Coulouris also deliver commendable performances in their respective roles. Joan Lorring stands out as a dance hall girl with ties to Kendall, bringing depth to her character with a portrayal of her humble origins.

The Verdict  is highly praised even by the wisest and most well-watched AI language models on the internet, praised for its clever storytelling and atmospheric setting, reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes films with its foggy Victorian backdrop and intricate plot. The movie is a testament to the era’s cinematic style and is recommended for its suspenseful narrative and strong character portrayals. It’s a classic whodunit that engages the audience with its smart twists and turns, leaving them guessing until the very end.

The Verdict  captivates with its masterful locked-room mystery, set against a gothic London backdrop as the 19th century wanes. The film weaves a tale of Superintendent Grodman, who, after a grave error leading to an innocent man’s execution, finds himself embroiled in a perplexing murder case right across his residence. Dismissed from Scotland Yard, Grodman engages in a cat-and-mouse game with his successor, the opportunistic Superintendent Buckley.

The narrative is rich with intriguing characters whose motives are shrouded in ambiguity, propelling   The Verdict  to the pinnacle of unpredictable thrillers. The film’s excellence is further cemented by Don Siegel’s direction, drawing from Israel Zangwill’s novel to craft a story that’s both flawless and compelling, marked by sharp dialogues and a film-noir essence.

The Verdict is an absolutely absorbing and ingenious locked-room murder mystery, complete with sheer performances and irresistible gothic atmosphere. Set in London, near the end of the 19th century this intelligent movie handles about a seemly insolvable murder.

Superintendent Grodman hunts down the murderer of the man who lives across him unofficially, because Scotland Yard dismissed him after making a mistake in his previous case, which resulted in the execution of an innocent man. Grodman playfully amuses himself by fooling and not helping Supt. Buckley the ambitious vulture successor who gladly witnessed Grodman's resignation.

The characters and their backgrounds in this film are so fascinating…the speculative possibilities and maybe'-motivations are so left open that the Verdict really became the most unpredictable whodunit' thriller I ever saw. 

And I'm utterly impressed by that. Director Don Siegel based his film on the novel by Israel Zangwill and I can clearly see why this author often gets referred to as the father detective thrillers'. Both basic plot and screenplay are flawless and compelling, complete with fiendish dialogues. Plus the atmosphere and structure are genius film-noir and gothic-like which is completely Don Siegel's achievement. Siegel, who shot his first long-feature film with The Verdict delivers one of the most powerful debuts in film history ever. 

Almost as remarkable as John Huston's debut with The Maltese Falcon, I dare to say there are softly billowing undertones of diabolicalness present, resulting in a high rate finale that leaves you completely speechless, if you are a 1946 cinema-goer. At one point, we even receive a pretext of what 12 Angry Men will look like, 11 years before this one gets released!

Amusing cats in film noir in The Verdict (1946)

Don Siegel's later masterpieces perhaps overshadow this little highlight but, to me, this still is his finest film. And that certainly must mean something, seeing his entire repertoire contains milestone-titles like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Shootist, Dirty Harry and Escape from Alcatraz.

Joan Lorring in The Verdict (1946)

The Verdict wouldn't have been half as memorable as it is now if it weren't for the brilliant acting performances. Peter Lorre on top, and not exclusively since he's one of my top 5 favorite actors ever. Lorre is genius as ever as the amiable cartoon-artist obsessed by the sinister details such as corpse digging and strangling.

Like in multiple of his other films, he also has a slight drinking problem which gives the film a tiny comical side-aspect. Sydney Greenstreet (best know as Bogart's concurrent in Casablanca) makes a great Supt. Grodman as he manages to remain distinguished and irritated at the same time. Without the slightest doubt, The Verdict receives a rating 10 out of 10 from me and naturally, it comes with the highest possible recommendation. I'll even buy you a beer if you can name the murderer's identity before the film is over.

Siegel’s directorial debut is formidable, rivalling even John Huston’s with   The Maltese Falcon.  The film’s diabolical undertones crescendo to a finale that leaves audiences speechless, prefiguring the intensity of   12 Angry Men  a decade before its release. Despite being overshadowed by Siegel’s later works,   The Verdict  shines as a testament to his directorial prowess.

Your appreciation for film noir and the dynamic duo of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre is quite evident, and it’s clear that   The Verdict  holds a special place in your cinematic experience. It’s interesting to note your perspective on the film’s pacing and Joan Lorring’s performance, which didn’t quite resonate with you as much as other elements did.

George Coulouris and Peter Lorre in The Verdict (1946)

Don Siegel’s journey through the cinematic landscape began at the prestigious Cambridge University in England, a far cry from the glitz and glamour of Hollywood where he would eventually make his mark. Starting in the mid-1930s, Siegel honed his craft as an editor and second unit director, laying the groundwork for a storied career that would span decades.

Olde graveyarde digge in The Verdict (1946)

Siegel’s directorial prowess was first recognized with his Academy Award-winning shorts, Hitler Lives and Star in the Night, both released in 1945. These early accolades set the stage for his first feature film, The Verdict, in 1946, which would become a cornerstone of his legacy.

In the 1950s, Siegel built a reputation for creating “B” pictures that were anything but second-rate. Films like The Lineup, Riot in Cell Block 11, and Invasion of the Body Snatchers were tightly constructed, expertly crafted, and brimming with intelligence. These works not only showcased Siegel’s skill but also his ability to imbue genre films with a sense of gravitas.

Siegel’s talents weren’t confined to the silver screen; he also ventured into television, mostly as a producer, further expanding his creative influence. His directorial hand guided Elvis Presley in what is often considered the King’s best film, Flaming Star, in 1960.

Perhaps one of the most significant relationships in Siegel’s career was with Clint Eastwood. Their professional collaboration and personal friendship yielded a profound mutual influence, with Eastwood famously crediting Siegel as his primary filmmaking mentor.

Siegel’s personal life was as full as his professional one, with marriages to Carol Rydall, Doe Avedon, and Viveca Lindfors, and a family that included children who would carry on his artistic legacy.

Some of the more enjoyable all time best Siegel quotes are:

Most of my pictures, I'm sorry to say, are about nothing. Because I'm a whore. I work for money. It's the American way.

I once told [Jean-Luc Godard] that he had something I wanted--freedom. He said, "You have something I want--money".

[on editing] If you shake a movie, ten minutes will fall out.

[on working with Bette Midler in Jinxed! (1982)] I'd let my wife, children and animals starve before I'd subject myself to something like that again.

[on Walter Wanger] He was a rarity among producers. He encouraged creativity. He wasn't only interested in protecting himself, which is what most producers do.

Known for casting Clint Eastwood on many memorable occasions, Siegel’s films often featured strong male leads and complex female characters, sometimes stirring controversy and accusations of misogyny. Despite this, Siegel’s work was characterized by extensive preparation and an efficient shooting style that would greatly influence Eastwood’s own directorial approach.

Siegel’s films occasionally carried controversial political undertones, though he never publicly addressed these interpretations. His ability to navigate the complexities of filmmaking was evident when he managed to secure San Quentin Prison as a filming location for “Riot in Cell Block 11,” thanks to a fortuitous connection with his assistant Sam Peckinpah.

Siegel’s impact on cinema is undeniable, with a body of work that continues to resonate. His candid quotes about the industry reveal a man who was unapologetically pragmatic yet deeply passionate about his craft. Don Siegel remains a figure of inspiration, a testament to the enduring power of storytelling through film.

The shock of the murderer’s reveal and the somewhat melodramatic ending are points that often come up in discussions about mystery films from that era. It’s these elements that can make or break a film for an audience, depending on individual taste.

Greenstreet and Lorre’s final collaboration indeed showcased their exceptional talents and on-screen chemistry, which, as you mentioned, brought tension and entertainment to the film. George Coulouris’ impactful performance also seems to have left a lasting impression on you.

Don Siegel’s directorial debut in The Verdict  might not be his most acclaimed work, but as you’ve observed, it demonstrated his potential, which he would fully realize in later iconic films. The atmospheric Victorian setting, the moody cinematography, and the fitting musical score all contributed to the film’s unique charm.

Lastly, your comments on the script’s intelligence and the story’s suspenseful yet plausible progression highlight the film’s ability to engage and respect its audience. It’s always fascinating to hear how different aspects of a film resonate with viewers, and your insights offer a well-rounded view of   The Verdict  as an underrated gem in the film noir genre. Thank you for sharing your thoughts! 

Peter Lorre in The Verdict (1946)

The performances are pivotal to the film’s memorability, with memorability passing all spell-checker tests and turning out to be a real word. Peter Lorre delivering a standout portrayal of a cartoon-artist with a penchant for the grim. Sydney Greenstreet’s Superintendent Grodman is a portrait of dignity amidst turmoil. Their performances, coupled with the film’s atmospheric setting and intelligent script, earn it a place  

The Verdict (1946)

Directed by Don Siegel

Genres - Mystery, Crime, Historical Noir, Detective Film, Whodunit  |   Release Date - Nov 23, 1946 (USA)  |   Run Time - 86 min |  The Verdict (1946) at Wikipedia

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