Review by Louise Keller:
This film masterfully addresses the
pain of the alcoholic. The combination of a powerful script,
sensitive direction and a simply superlative performance by Ray
Milland make this an unforgettable view of life on the edge. Ray
Milland’s memorable portrayal of Don Birnam is haunting.
Milland shows every possible despair, while managing to be
totally likeable all at once. We empathise with Don’s
solitary life and his relationship with himself, his bottle and
the bartenders. His girlfriend Helen, played most sympathetically
by Jane Wyman, is trying desperately to help him and we empathise
with her plight. She remarks at one point that they’re both
trying - he’s trying not to drink, she’s trying not to
In fact this film was almost never released because of the poor
reaction by preview audiences in 1945 who were not used to such
stark realism from Hollywood. And what a loss that would have
been. Production values are excellent with stunning moody black
and white cinematography and a strident musical score by Miklos
This film contains some of the most memorable scenes ever
portrayed. Who could ever forget the frightening scene in the
alcoholic ward (Hangover Plaza) where we meet male nurse Bim, who
tells Don that "Delirium is a disease of the night" and
tells him to drink up his medicine, because he will experience
the DTs. And the scene where he experiences the DTs is quite
terrifying - a scene that will stay with you forever.
We get inside the head of Don, whose relationship with the bottle
is both a love affair and the epitome of loathing and despair.
But it is a film of hope, and very highly recommended as an
addition to your personal video library.