Rent The Reckless Moment (1949)

3.6 of 5 from 100 ratings
1h 19min
Rent The Reckless Moment (aka The Blank Wall) Online DVD & Blu-ray Rental
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Following the accidental death of her daughter's lowlife boyfriend, respectable mother Lucia Harper instinctively hides the body to protect her family. Before long a stranger calls, sent by his partner to blackmail her. The comfort and security of Lucia's world appears to be in danger of collapsing.
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Walter Wanger
Henry Garson, Robert Soderberg
The Blank Wall
Second Sight Films Ltd.
Classics, Drama
A Brief History of the Tradition of Quality, Getting to Know: James Mason, Getting to Know: Tilda Swinton
Release Date:
Run Time:
79 minutes
English Dolby Digital 2.0
DVD Regions:
Region 2
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.33:1 / 4:3
B & W
  • Introduction by Todd Haynes
  • Commentary by Lutz Bacher, author of 'Max Ophuls in the Hollywood Studios'
  • Production Stills Gallery
Release Date:
Run Time:
82 minutes
English LPCM Mono
English Hard of Hearing
Aspect Ratio:
Full Screen 1.37:1
B & W
BLU-RAY Regions:
(0) All
  • Original mono audio Making an American Movie (2010, 44 mins): an in-depth analysis by Lutz Bacher, author of Max Ophuls in the Hollywood Studios
  • Maternal Overdrive (2006, 23 mins): award-winning writer-director Todd Haynes discusses one of his favourite films
  • James Mason as Homme Fatal (2018, 27 mins): illustrated lecture by academic Adrian Garvey, recorded as part of the Focus on James Mason event held at Birkbeck, University of London
  • Focus on James Mason: Audience Discussion (2018, 40 mins): Q&A session hosted by academics Adrian Garvey and Sarah Thomas following a screening of The Reckless Moment
  • James Mason: Watching the Violence Unfold (2018, 33 mins): illustrated lecture by academic Sarah Thomas, recorded at Birkbeck, University of London Isolated music and effects track
  • Image gallery: on-set and promotional photography
  • World premiere on Blu-ray

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Reviews (2) of The Reckless Moment

Includes spoilers. - The Reckless Moment review by Steve

Spoiler Alert

Film noir moves to the sunny middle class suburbs of Los Angeles with Joan Bennett as Lucia Harper, a harassed mother of two feisty kids who gets involved in the accidental death of her teenage daughter's much older (and mercenary) suitor and is blackmailed by Martin Donnelly (James Mason) while her husband is away in Europe. He falls in love with her, and so having dropped his personal interest in chiselling $5000 dollars out of Lucia for her daughter's compromising letters, must protect her from his brutal, less principled accomplice.

Which is a crazy, far-fetched story. Ophüls, though a German came from a long background in French melodrama. We are expected to accept the emotional truth of this story even if narrative realism is warped. Making that allowance, this is a thrilling and fascinating film and the relationship between the two leads is very moving, all the more so because code convention means Lucia's feeling for Donnelly must go unsaid. 

Burnett Guffey's chiaroscuro photography of the suburban house of shadows is unusually beautiful, so it looks very noir even though but for the death this would be straight melodrama. The dark interiors contrast satisfyingly with the sunlit, prestigious, lakeside locations.    

The two stars are heartbreaking. They are both lonely in very different ways. This is one of Mason's very best performances. And (ok, he played a lot of bad guys) most appealing. His unspoken emotional pain is powerfully felt. In the best noir traditional, he suffers for a woman who may well be manipulating him for selfish reasons. Though she escapes entirely free from the law, surely Lucia is not untouched. She must be devastated by his sacrifice? Is Ophüls saying that the poor must suffer and be morally compromised so the rich can live comfortably and righteously? Perhaps, but by the fade-out we are unsure of her emotional cost.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

The mom with aplomb - The Reckless Moment review by RhysH

Spoiler Alert

Joan bennet plays the protective American mom Lucia with some aplomb.

James Mason plays the crook Donnelly, caught between villainy and his growing love for Lucia. He gives a steely performance.

The director Max Ophuls was known for his tracking shots and elaborate camera movements.

James Mason wrote;

A shot that does not call for tracks,

Is agony for poor old Max,

Who, separated from his dolly,

Is wrapped in deepest melancholy

Once, they took away his crane,

I thought he'd never smile again.

The depiction of the black maid reflects life at the time but viewing today it is rather disturbing. Francis E. Williams who plays Sybil went on to have a distinguished role as a political activist, amongst many other things she was chairperson of the National Anti-Imperialist Movement in Solidarity with African Liberation. For this film she is not listed on the credits.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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