We gave it a B
Tyrone Power subverts his matinee idol looks as a greedy carnival hustler who swaps undershirts for tuxedos when he takes his mentalist con act from grubby midways to swell-egant nightclubs. The scam gets stranger and deeper after he meets a shady psychologist (Helen Walker). As much EC comic as noir, Nightmare Alley is strong on atmosphere (thanks to Lee Garmes’ shadowy cinematography) and performances (particularly Joan Blondell, as fellow mind reader Zeena), but doesn’t quite deliver on its lurid pulp premise. EXTRAS The blame for that probably rests on Fox studio head Darryl F. Zanuck. According to film historians James Ursini and Alain Silver on their chatty commentary, Zanuck insisted on going against William Lindsay Gresham’s novel and redeeming Power’s character, thus depriving the film of its rightful bleak ending.