Filmed some 18 months before its release, Conflict is one of two melodramas in which Humphrey Bogart self-consciously portrayed a wife murderer (the other was The Two Mrs. Carrolls). Bogie plays unhappily married Richard Mason, who concocts a meticulous scheme to kill his shrewish wife, Kathryn (Rose Hobart), so that he'll be free to marry her sister, Evelyn (Alexis Smith).


John Chard
You see, Doctor Hamilton belongs to the Freudian school of psychology, he believes that love rather than money is the root of all evil. Conflict is directed by Curtis Bernhardt and collectively written by Arthur T. Horman, Dwight Taylor, Robert Siodmak and Alfred Neumann. It stars Humphrey Bogart, Alexis Smith, Sydney Greenstreet, Rose Hobart, Charles Drake and Grant Mitchell. Music is by Frederick Hollander and cinematography by Merritt B. Gerstad. Still under exposed after all these years, Conflict is deserving of reappraisals by the film noir crowd. Plot has Richard Mason (Bogart) stuck in a loveless marriage to Kathryn (Hobart), with his misery further compounded by the fact he’s in love with his sister-in-law, Evelyn (Smith). Finally having enough, Richard murders his wife and intends to woo the younger Evelyn into his life. However, when Richard starts glimpsing his wife out in the city and little items of hers start turning up, Richard starts to doubt his own mind. In essence it’s a psychological thriller spiced with German Expressionism, perhaps unsurprising given that Bernhardt and Siodmak are key components of the production. The psychoanalysis angle played out would of course become a big feature in the film noir cycle, and here it makes for a most interesting story as Bernhardt and Gerstad dress it up in looming shadows, rain sodden streets and treacherous mountain roads. The pungent air of fatalism is evident throughout, the pace of the piece purposely sedate to marry up with the sombre tones as Richard Mason, a disturbed menace, him self becomes menaced. Ok, you don’t have to be an ace detective to figure out just exactly what is going on, so the reveal at film’s closure lacks a bit of a punch, but the atmospherically tinged journey is well worth undertaking regardless. Bernhardt’s camera is often like some peeping tom spying on the warped machinations of Mason, and all the while Hollander adds thematically compliant music to proceedings. Bogart was pretty much press ganged into making the picture, but come the final product it’s evident that even though he may have been unhappy initially, he ended up delivering one the most intriguing turns in his wonderful career. Greenstreet is his usual presence, here playing the psychiatrist family friend who delivers the telling lines whilst being ahead of the game. Unfortunately the two principal lady characters aren’t done any favours by the otherwise taut screenplay, especially Evelyn, who as the catalyst for the sinister shadings never gets chance to build a strong emotional bridge to Richard Mason’s psychological make-up. Still, when you got Bogart as an unhinged killer attired in trench-coat and fedora, and a director who knows how to place him in the right visual scenarios, the flaws can’t kill the film’s strengths. 7/10

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