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"Walk Softly, Stranger," the new Valli--Joseph Cotten epic proves only that the impact of "The Third Man" rested on a great deal more than the names in its cast. Perhaps with another superb musical background which could have created a powerful mood or submerged the action completely, these stony characters could have made the movie at least passable. But R.K.O. failed to take this precaution in its haste to whip up another Valli-Cotten pudding.
As a millionnairess who was crippled in a nasty skiing mishap, Valli suffers from an intense wheelchair neurosis. Cotten, who is not without his own social difficulties, is the man chosen to rehabilitate her. Together, these two unfortunates stage what is probably the most lethargic performance on record. A half-smile from Valli and one darted look from Cotten are the twin peaks of emotion in the film.
"Walk Softly, Stranger" has less plot than a poor musical. Ostensibly, it is the tale of a gambler and petty thief who attempts to reform his life. After meeting the millionairess and developing the first symptoms of love, however, he is forced to team with one of his old buddies to pull one last job, a stickup of a gambling house. He is, of course, asking for it, and "it" almost catches up with him during the last reel. In the finale, he interrupts his now full-blown romance to spend three quiet years of atonement in prison.
Walk softly, strangr, as you leave the theater, because everyone else in the place will be asleep. --David P. Lighthill
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