Bradley Cooper in one of his strongest roles, Cate Blanchett as a femme fatale, and grandiose pictures by “Hellboy” mastermind Guillermo del Toro: “Nightmare Alley” was nominated for the Oscar as Best Picture and unfortunately also a flop.
It’s bewitched: Whenever it looks like “Pan’s Labyrinth” director Guillermo del Toro has finally found the connection to the mass audience, there is a setback. His horror fairy tale “Shape of Water” was not only celebrated by the press and awarded the Oscar for Best Picture, but also took in about ten times its budget at the box office. One would think that his next directorial work would certainly be similarly successful. But unfortunately it turned out differently…
The star-studded neo-noir thriller “Nightmare Alley” deservedly received four Oscar nominations (for Best Film, Camera, Costumes and Equipment), plus mostly positive to very positive reviews. But the film crashed at the box office. After its release at Disney+ “Nightmare Alley” is now also available on DVD and Blu-ray – and so interested film fans really have no reason to finally catch up on this atmospheric story about lies, deceit and seduction:
The film is not only worthwhile because of its strong visuals, but also because of its cast: in addition to Cate Blanchett and “Hangover” actor Bradley Cooper, who delivers one of the most gripping performances of his career in “Nightmare Alley”, Toni also plays, among others Collette, Willem Dafoe, Rooney Mara, and Hellboy star Ron Perlman.
This is Nightmare Alley
The mysterious Stanton “Stan” Carlisle (Bradley Cooper) drags himself from a burning house to the carnival of dubious showman Clement “Clem” Hoately (Willem Dafoe). There, the adaptable rascal succeeds in rapid advancement: The helping hand soon becomes the apprentice of a mentalist couple (Toni Collette & David Strathairn). When Stan realizes he’s got what it takes to perform, he leaves the carnival with his lover Molly (Rooney Mara) to go to the big city as a mentalist to entertain a well-heeled crowd. There he arouses the curiosity of the inscrutable psychiatrist Lilith Ritter (Cate Blanchett). But will she inspire him or will she bring him down…?
Sometimes films just glide past the cinema audience. It’s such a startling disappointment that “Nightmare Alley” only grossed about two-thirds of its $60 million budget, despite the positive reviews, star-studded cast, and Oscar nominations that should’ve sparked more curiosity. The German cinema audience was particularly disinterested – del Toro’s highly atmospheric fairground thriller was seen by less than 85,000 film fans on the big screen in this country.
The visual values of the film alone are absolutely great and reason enough to watch it – which is why the bonus material on the Blu-ray is consequently primarily dedicated to the beautiful, beguiling costumes and the detailed, macabre set design. From decorative items like a preserved fetus with piercing gaze, to sprawling, weather-beaten backdrops, to a rattling, crunching, rattling carnival hell!
In del Toro’s world of misfits, rip-offs, and outcasts, you can’t just lose yourself – you want to, even when danger lurks around every corner. In the form of treacherous companions, fatal arrogance and sudden, drastic peaks of violence… In short: a trip down this nightmare alley is a film trip that not only noir fans will surely not forget in a hurry!