THE MAN IN THE NET is not a mystery that will ensnare you, apart from the beatnicky charms of Carolyn Jones, as its web of dullness trips up star Alan Ladd and director Michael Curtiz in the weakest job of work in either of their careers.
Living in quiet rural Connecticut, an artist (Ladd), whose work is unconventional and as such, suspect, trying to make a go of it by his painting, has to contend with his spiteful alcoholic wife (Carolyn Jones). When she vanishes, then turns up dead, it’s only some local kids the artist has befriended who help him elude area adults rushing to judgment.
Both Curtiz, 73 and fading from the cancer that would claim him three years later, and Ladd, 46 going on 60 thanks to depression and booze, hit low points in this 98-minute snore, with the direction bereft of tension and the actor looking puffy and exhausted. Watching the formerly fit leading man barely able to muster energy to run across a lawn is downright painful. I recall somewhat liking this as a youngster (kids easily amused, at least back when Grant was President) but seeing it again a few years back was a shock. My girlfriend and I at first chortled over watching Ladd’s overtaxed efforts at exertion, but after a while it became more of a sad exercise in pity.
Jones, 29 and foxy, brings as much energy as she can to an otherwise feeble setup, but she’s only around for a while. Poorly written by Reginald Rose, who’d recently scored a critical hit with 12 Angry Men; none of that snap or crackle pops in this soggy box. It only eked up to spot #112 for the year, grossing $1,800,000.
With Diane Brewster, John Lupton, Charles McGraw, Tom Helmore, Edward Binns and Susan Gordon. Along with the always watchable Jones, the only other decent thing on view is crisp camerawork from veteran John F. Seitz. *
* John F. Seitz amassed 164 credits as cinematographer between 1916 and 1960, including handling chores for 22 of Ladd’s movies, helping make Saturday matinee items like The Iron Mistress and Santiago gleam. Nominated 7 times for an Oscar, his efforts graced Double Indemnity, Sunset Boulevard, This Gun For Hire, When Worlds Collide and The Lost Weekend. Literally inventive, Seitz held 18 patents around camera work, including developing the matte shot. There was little to salvage from this weak programmer but Mr. Seitz made it look decent, especially the alluring Miss Jones, who, like the troubled Mr.Ladd, left us too soon. Jones was a hot item in ’59: besides this, she decorated and added verve to A Hole In The Head, Career and Last Train From Gun Hill, all of them much better to be caught up in than The Man In The Net.