Track of the Cat (1954)
I've been wanting to see William Wellman's Track of the Cat since I read Jonathan Rosenbaum describe it as an American Ordet in his "Global Discoveries on DVD" column for CinemaScope. While it doesn't attain the spiritual heights of Dreyer's masterpiece, it is a fascinating work that deserves a wider audience.
The film was a result of Wellman's desire to design a film in B&W but shoot it in color, lending it a drained, sepulchral character. Color appears rarely - most notably in Robert Mitchum's red jacket, a techincolor rich renunciation of its background. Mitchum is Curt, the arrogant prick of a middle son of the Bridges family, who live a Spartan lifestyle on a remote farm. Arthur (William Hopper), is the oldest and upright counterweight to Curt. The rest of the family is no help - with a drunk father (Philip Tonge), meek brother (Tab Hunter), spinster sister (Teresa Wright), and bible-thumping mother (Beulah Bondi). A black panther sets the plot in motion, but it's all motored by deep-seeded sexual paranoia that seeps into every conversation - and out of every leer from Mitchum, who gives a powerhouse performance. The images often astound - a POV shot from inside a grave, elaborate choreography of the family during the father's drunken speech, and imposing northwestern landscapes add up to a bizarre, almost expressionist gothic family drama that has no equivalent in Hollywood that I can think of.