Richard Mason is slightly injured in a car accident but pretends greater hurt so that he cannot accompany his wife Kathryn on a trip to the mountains. He does, however, kill her on a lonely mountain road. Or did he? He smells her perfume, finds her jewelry, sees an envelope addressed with her handwriting. He must go back to the scene of the crime to find ...
Humphrey Bogart ... Richard Mason
Alexis Smith ... Evelyn Turner
Sydney Greenstreet ... Dr. Mark Hamilton
Rose Hobart ... Kathryn Mason
Charles Drake ... Prof. Norman Holsworth
Grant Mitchell ... Dr. Grant
Patrick O\'Moore ... Det. Lt. Egan (as Pat O\'Moore)
Ann Shoemaker ... Nora Grant
Edwin Stanley ... Phillips (as Ed Stanley)
I\'ve just seen this film again for the first time in about 20 years. I\'ve held it as a personal favorite from an earlier viewing, all this time. It was with some trepidation, then, taking into account all the water that has washed under the gates in the last 20 years in cinematic terms, that I came to Conflict again. Would it still stand up as an authentic film experience?
For me, it has. --And what\'s more, there are resonances here, this time around, that flew over the head of a callow youngster. This go \'round, the film feels like nothing less than a meditation on regret, all those mistakes you wish you could undo, all those unfulfilled longings of middle age that arise out of a palpable sense of missed opportunities and fading last chances.
Bogart is perfect as Richard Mason, an engineer who is trusted to oversee the building of a bridge or skyscraper, but can\'t repair a \'simple little thing\' like his damaged relationship with his wife. Mason regrets what has become of his marriage. He regrets feeling trapped in a \'situation.\' He regrets that the time line of eternity has failed to synchronize the lifetimes of his wife\'s much younger sister with his own. A cool and respected professional outwardly, he is, inside, a flailing, discontented man. What finally pushes him over the edge may be his wife\'s casual mockery in the films first scene, a preparation for their anniversary party. Amid some standard jibes and old-couple bickering, she throws out this taunt: that she hopes he never tells Evelyn, her sister, he has a thing for her, because she\'d laugh at him. \"I wish you hadn\'t said that\" he thinks out loud. It\'s at that point that we begin to feel the wheels of escape turning in the engineer\'s head. With just a few thoughtless words, the relationship has turned a corner, from merely unrewarding to personally demeaning and thus intolerable. Therein hangs the tale.
By fade out, it is clear that Mason has one other towering regret: having killed his wife. The final scene, returned to the sepulcher he fashioned for his wife, Mason takes a long hard look with us alongside at existential despair. The empty tomb is a metaphor for Mason\'s life as he must feel it at that point: The emptiness of an empty life, the emptiness of death and eternity for one who has lived such a life. Whatever he was waiting for hasn\'t shown up this existence, and won\'t in the next. This is it for Richard Mason. Does it get any darker than this?
Conflict isn\'t included in most noir references because, I believe, some of the more psychologically aberrant elements of the characters and story are explained away rationally at the end, as part of a set up or a trick to trap a murderer. But I think the experts are mistaken in not having looked more closely at this film. The core of Conflict is, in fact, the purest noir: an existential view of life and death, struggles with doubts about ones own sanity, sexual longing as a spur to murder, and a cruel subversion of a cherished bourgeois institution (the \'perfect\' marriage). If this isn\'t noir, then what is noir criticism but a transparent popularity contest-- like the earliest auteur criticism-- that speciously excludes films for having the \"wrong\" director, or for not having been endorsed by the \"right\" people?
\"Conflict\" has always been one of my favorite Bogey movies, even if it doesn\'t score highly with most viewers. Perhaps it\'s the chemistry between he and Sydney Greenstreet, who\'s character is a psychiatrist who specializes in the workings of the criminal mind. There\'s a great scene in which Professor Hamilton (Greenstreet) and Richard Mason (Bogart) exchange ideas on the \"perfect crime\", with all of the professor\'s insight focused on accurately describing Mason\'s uncertainty and attendant behavior following the murder of his wife. Hamilton describes Mason\'s conduct to a tee, leaving Mason speechless as he walks out the door.
There is really no mystery here, early on we know that Richard Mason faked the complications of an auto accident to set up a confrontation with Kathryn Mason (Rose Hobart) on a lonely mountain road. Astute viewers will catch the mistake that Mason makes to the police and Professor Hamilton, when describing his missing wife \"the last time I saw her\". If you don\'t catch it, you\'ll be aware of it during a repeat viewing and say to yourself, \"how did I miss that?\" The scene is deftly done, as Greenstreet\'s character doesn\'t give a hint of recognition at Mason\'s errant remark.
The remainder of the film relies on a considerable number of set ups intended to smoke out Mason. Granted, some of the circumstances require odds defying precision timing, and a highly unlikely alliance between the police and the professor. Maybe in simpler times, authorities might have been able to trap their victim as was done here, but I don\'t think it would work in a real life situation today. Nevertheless, as positioned in the film, each manufactured event is intended to make Mason believe that his wife may not be dead (even though he did kill her), or that he may slowly be losing his mind. Even random events conspire to trigger Mason\'s guilt - an engineering sketch by one of his partners, and a pile of logs rigged for a vacation lodge bonfire outwardly resemble the scene where Mason rigged his wife\'s unfortunate \"accident\".
Ultimately, many movies require some suspension of belief for their premise to work. \"Conflict\" is one of those movies where the characters, dialog and set ups meld together cohesively enough to offer an entertaining viewing if one can refrain from being too critical. On that basis, the film is well recommended.
Richard Mason (Humphrey Bogart) kills his wife Katherine on a remote hill road. With a good alibi he feels it is the perfect crime and plays the role of the concerned husband as the police follow up a missing persons report. However things begin happening that convince Richard that his wife is very much alive.
This is not a classic Bogart role. He is quite good as the murderer who begins to unravel as his crime begins to catch up with him, he quite convincingly gets increasingly frantic during the film as things keeping happening that couldn\'t happen unless his wife was alive. However it isn\'t as strong a role as some of his classics. The strongest performance is Sydney Greenstreet as Doctor Hamilton who supports Bogart through his loss.
The story requires on two mysteries to keep your interest - one, is his wife still alive or is he being played by someone with an ulterior motive? and two - will he get away with the murder? As a mystery it doesn\'t quite grab you as much as it should. The two mysteries are not enough to drive you until the end but are quite entertaining - especially where Bogart believes he is losing his mind when someone plays games with him. But it\'s not that great a mystery - we know that either she\'s alive or she\'s not - the options are limited so the solution doesn\'t exactly come out of left-field! The ending is therefore not great, although it is clever, in particular finding out the mistake that Bogart made in his otherwise perfect crime. But it\'s all a bit of an anti-climax and you feel that you suspected as much the whole way through.
A reasonable mystery film but it doesn\'t have the tension or mystery that it needed to keep it\'s audience on a knife\'s edge for the duration
This is a not much known film noir directed by Kurt (Curtis) Bernhardt. Starring Humphrey Bogart as the architect Richard Mason who kills his wife because he is in love with her sister the movie switches from a straight forward crime story to a mystery when Mason gets letters from his wife though he knows she is dead. This is an clever idea but it\'s very easy for an experienced crime novel reader to pre-construct the movie after thirty minutes if you listen closely. This is somehow a weakness of the whole movie, nevertheless the interest is still there because of the other qualities the movie offers. The screenplay and the editing is fast paced, the dialog is sharp without any paraphrases, the acting is to the point. The plot line offers another question: Is the sister of Richard Mason\'s wife also in love with him as he thinks she is? Since we see the movie from his point of view it is very unclear.
\"Conflict\" creates a dark atmosphere and we see Mason acting like an immoral person which we also can call existencialistic. He does not question his crime, it seems it is just something that had to be done.
Nice appearance by Sidney Greenstreet as the psychologist Hamilton.