The Unholy Wife (1957)
Director: John Farrow
Screenplay: Jonathan Latimer (based on a story by William Durkee)
Stars: Diana Dors, Rod Steiger and Tom Tryon.
The Pitch: “We’ve got Diana Dors, let’s star her as a femm fatale in a film noir!”
Tagline: HALF-ANGEL……HALF-DEVIL, she made him HALF-A-MAN! …she flaunted his hopes, taunted his dreams, turned his peaceful valley into a volcano of seething passions that even murder could not stem!
The Overview: Beware of Spoilers…
The Unholy Wife is a little known, under-rated film noir released in 1957 staring Diana Dors and Rod Steiger. Steiger plays Paul, a war vet who runs the gigantic family vineyard. A chance encounter with a beautiful woman leads Paul to fall in love with her. And that love sends him down the path to death and ruin.
Sound familiar? It should because its the outline for all great film noirs. Double Indemnity? Check. The Postman Always Rings Twice? Check. Now, I’m not saying that The Unholy Wife meets the gold standard of those two classics, but it’s definitely coming from the same mine.
Dors plays Phyllis a bleach-bottle blonde bombshell (say that three times fast) that steals Paul Hochen’s heart. Despite the warning signs (some from Phyllis herself), Paul marries her. He then brings Phyllis and her young son home to live on his huge vineyard estate. It isn’t long before Phyllis is having an affair and plotting to set her husband up for murder.
The Unholy Wife reminds me of a lesser known Gold Medal book you’d find on the paperback racks back in the 50s. I say that as a good thing. Even The Unholy Wife movie poster looks like it could have served as a Gold Medal cover!
I like everything about The Unholy Wife. Dors is excellent as the beautiful, heartless seductress. Steiger is convincing (and doesn’t overact) as the nice guy led astray. Tom Tryon doesn’t have much to do, but is just right as Dors’ lover. The movie was made in Technicolor and the process and colors make it look like a lurid paperback cover come to life.
If you’re a fan of film noir then you should really enjoy The Unholy Wife. I did.