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March 1, 2023

A Binge too Far #30: Revenge of the Nightmare Alley duo (1947 & 2021)

Nightmare Alley (1947) frame featuring Coleen Gray

Nightmare Alley (1947) poster

Nightmare Alley


Stanton Carlisle [Tyrone Power, later in Rawhide (1951)] is a mentalist (a fancy word for a con artist) that works a sideshow of a travelling circus, but his talents and determination elevate him to a greater showman and win them success and the girl of his dreams [the stunning Coleen Gray, later in The Vampire (1957)], but she cannot follow his every scam and will prove essential to his downfall.


Written by Jules Furthman (based on the same-titled novel by William Lindsay Gresham) and Directed by Edmund Goulding, this Carney-centered melodrama (it is little more than a love story in a nice setting) is surpassingly (for the era it was made, when the 1930s circus-styled exploitation pictures were already old news, if not entirely dodgy) affectionate to its subject matter, and even goes out of its way to raise important and well-thought questions about religion. As far as 1940s noirs are concerned (and this is not totally one, but can qualify due to its moody black and white cinematography, as well as the dooming fame fatale, among a few more elements in it) this wasn’t a great success at the box-office, but time has been kind to it and it is now regarded a classic by the genre’s aficionados.


Nightmare Alley (2021)


Stanton Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) is a talented hustler and mentalist that takes his sideshow spectacle at a failing carnival to the next level and sold out shows in legit venues, with the assistance of Molly Cahill (the stunning Rooney Mara), but once he dips his toes too deep into uncharted waters, he meets his match and sets himself up to failure and doom.


Directed by Guillermo del Toro (who also wrote the screenplay with Kim Morgan) and featuring an all-star cast (other than the aforementioned lead couple we also get Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, and Ron Perlman, among others), this stellar remake takes everything to the next (Hollywood) level with breathtaking production design and attention to detail, but whereas it was loved by critics and fans alike, it failed at the box-office, possibly because its story is difficult to gel with today’s audiences.

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