The question asked by this picture is: "How far is a mother willing to go to save her child?" And the answer is...beyond what the law allows. This was French Director Max Ophuls' last American movie. He was able to capture the American milieu in LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN and CAUGHT with
his almost sensuous camera work, comprised of a dazzling assortment of crane shots, tilted angles, fluid tracking shots, and more. Despite the technique, he never lost sight of his narrative and the result was usually a better movie than the script promised. So it was with this film, a predictable
melodrama, that could have been forgettable but remains a fine example of his work. Tense from beginning to end, THE RECKLESS MOMENT is the story of a family torn apart and united by circumstance. Bennett is happily married and living in upper-middle-class luxury on Balboa Island in southern
California. Her two children, Brooks and Blair, her father-in-law, O'Neill, and her maid, Williams, also live in the house. At the opening, Bennett's husband is away on business. Bennett learns that Brooks has been having an affair with Strudwick, a much older man, and she has written a packet of
letters that he intends to make public if the family doesn't come across with some money. Strudwick makes that clear to Bennett, who advises Brooks to attempt to get the letters back. That night, Brooks and Strudwick meet for a palaver in the family's small boathouse. When Strudwick won't change
his mind, Brooks whacks him with a flashlight, then runs out. Strudwick is stunned by the force of the blow and tries to follow her, but he trips and falls over a rail into the water where he drowns. When Bennett finds the body on the sand in front of the family house, she realizes that this will
have to be explained to the authorities, something she doesn't want to do, so she hides the body in a boat.
Meanwhile, we discover that Strudwick no longer had the letters. The gigolo was in trouble with a loan shark and gave the letters to the man as collateral to cover his debt. The shark, Roberts, hears of Strudwick's death and suspects murder. He plans to use the information to his advantage.
Roberts is in cahoots with Mason, who is sent to see Bennett and demand $5,000 for the return of the letters that link Brooks to Strudwick. Bennett tries to get a loan, to pawn her jewels, to do anything to raise the money, and Mason becomes sympathetic to her efforts to save her daughter. As
Bennett continues her fruitless fund-raising, she only manages to amass a small part of the money, but Mason assures her that Brooks is in the clear, as someone else has been arrested for the murder. This places a burden of guilt on Bennett who can't bear the thought of an innocent man being
executed. Roberts is increasingly fidgety about Mason's inability to secure the money and decides he'd better take care of this himself. He travels to Balboa to await Bennett and there meets Mason. They battle and Mason chokes Roberts to death, but is severely injured in the fight. Bennett comes
home, finds the two men, and wants to tend Mason's wounds but he thinks it might be better if he disposes of Roberts. He climbs into his car with the dead man and Bennett follows. Mason crashes his car and is dying when the cops arrive. While keeping an eye of the distraught Bennett, Mason tells
the cops that he killed Strudwick and Roberts, thus taking Bennett and Brooks off the hook. Mason dies, and Bennett returns to her peaceful house at Balboa to wait for the imminent appearance of her husband.
First-class direction of a second-class script makes this a fine, moody melodrama. The preview of the film was a disaster. Columbia took the print to a suburban theater where everything went wrong. The picture broke and several minutes were taken to splice it. Then, when the movie began to unreel,
the sound track and the picture were out of synchronization and the words didn't match the lip movements. By the time they re-synched the movie, half the audience had left and any suspense that might have been generated was lost. It was Mason's third US picture, having appeared for Ophuls in
CAUGHT, then MADAME BOVARY before this.
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- Rating: NR
- Review: The question asked by this picture is: "How far is a mother willing to go to save her child?" And the answer is...beyond what the law allows. This was French Director Max Ophuls' last American movie. He was able to capture the American milieu in LETTER FRO… (more)