Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
An older New York hotel. Flyer Jed Towers (Richard Widmark) arrives to find out
why his singer girlfriend Lyn Lesley (Anne Bancroft) is calling off their romance. Incensed when she
criticizes him as too cold, Jed retires to his room, but strikes up a flirtation with a blonde
he sees in a window across the way. He invites himself over to her room, thinking her a fast
conquest, but is soon neck deep in trouble: Nell Forbes (Monroe) is actually a
babysitter who's seriously unbalanced - wearing the jewelry and clothing of the woman whose child
she is minding. Nell has been released from the asylum too soon, and is dangerous.
Something of a strange misfire, Don't Bother to Knock's trailer sells MM as a sexually
wanton harlot, luring Richard Widmark into her lurid clutches. What it really is, is a confused predecessor
to the deranged psychopaths that would later become movie craze. Perhaps Marilyn's demented babysitter,
tormenting and tying up helpless moppet Bunny (Donna Corcoran), is Bette Davis' The Nanny at an
Psychologically, Knock is not bad, as it doesn't soak its plot in half-baked Freud, and credibly
points out the source of Nell Forbes' dementia as the result of melancholia over a boyfriend lost
in a plane crash. But the emotional thread tying her to Richard Widmark (he's a flyer too, so she
latches onto him in a fantasy crush) doesn't connect with Widmark's rocky relationship with
Anne Bancroft. Widmark has a temper and talks tough, so Anne doesn't understand him.
He leaps at the chance to play bellboy with MM, but then reveals himself as an emotional softie who
only wants the best for everyone, adores children and elevator drivers, etc. His lust for Nell
transforms into paternalistic concern, thus sidestepping all the sex in the advertising sell.
Marilyn plays the role of the irrational babysitter as well as can be expected. Her mood swings from
tearful come-on, to dangerous rage aren't credible, but the movie isn't trying for natural realism. At
her most extreme, she basically manages the same pop-eyed stare Billy Wilder coaxed out of her in
The Seven Year Itch, when she pantomimed a
reaction to seeing the Creature from the Black Lagoon.
Knock's shocking idea that a babysitter might threaten her charge with a push from a high
window, or bind and gag her when she becomes an inconvenience, no longer seems very perverse. The
weird thing is that
everyone else in the hotel, from the switchboard operator to the nosy guests, care so much.
I want to live in a world where everyone's so concerned with looking out for each other. Seeing
Anne Bancroft's new appreciation for Widmark is something of a strange step - we were expecting
jealous fireworks, or at least a scene of misunderstanding. If my girlfriend or wife caught me with
Marilyn Monroe, in any circumstances, a warm smile wouldn't be her first reaction.
This time, Fox concocts a modest production with lots of support for their budding actress. Solid
players like Elisha Cook Jr. and Lurene Tuttle add to the credibility. Kid Donna Corcoran looks to
old to be so baby-ish, and isn't given much to do. If Marilyn Monroe was groomed to replace Betty
Grable, so it seems Anne Bancroft was being positioned to compete with Ava Gardner, whose hairstyle
and general appearance she's been shoehorned into imitating. Ms. Bancroft wouldn't be given a real chance to
really act for a full decade.
At a short 76 minutes, Don't Bother to Knock shows signs of being a troubled project, but most
of it plays smoothly. Director Roy Baker is England's Roy Ward Baker, later the name behind
A Night to Remember and various Hammer films.
Like the previous boxed-set Diamond Collection, each of these discs has been digitally
remastered and cleaned up as if the lives of Fox executives were depending on it. Don't Bother to Knock comes with a restoration demo that shows graphically how it was polished to this lustre.
For Audio, Knock is listed as being in 'English Stereo', which
I think has to be a reprocessing trick.
Savant's comprehensive review of all 5 Diamond Collection 2 releases can be read at
DVD Savant Text © Copyright 2002 Glenn Erickson
Go BACK to the Savant Main Page.