Otto Preminger’s Angel Face features Robert Mitchum as Frank Jessup, a private investigator who discovers – but cannot escape from – the machinations of Diane Tremayne, the amoral woman he loves (Jean Simmons, cast effectively against type).
The film traces the obsession of a working-class man for a beautiful rich woman who involves him in a plot to murder her stepmother.
Earlier, Diane had deliberately broken up Frank’s engagement to Mary (Mona Freeman), the “good” woman who represents a normal life that is no longer enough for Frank once he meets Diane and develops a taste for rich living.
The murder plot succeeds, but only at the additional and unexpected cost of the life of Diane’s father. Diane, however, never feels a twinge of guilt, and nothing derails her plans.
The couple are indicted for what is soon suspected to be a crime, but – in the tradition of The Postman Always Rings Twice – they are acquitted because of the shyster lawyer she hires to defend them.
Though seemingly destined for a life together, Frank finally has an attack of conscience. He attempts to break with Diane after the trial and resume his previous life.
In a gesture that dooms him, Frank allows Diane to drive him to the bus station. But she would rather die than give him up . . .
Diane backs the car over a cliff, killing them both, in a gesture that recalls the “accident” she plotted earlier.
Angel Face features impressive performances from Mitchum and Simmons, which Preminger’s direction subtly reinforces through an artful manipulation of mise en scène stage setting – classic film noir.