Possibly the most underrated film noir ever. If Freaks had a con man son, Nightmare Alley would be it. Tyrone Power gets ahead through Jedi mind tricks and pure son of a bitchery from the carnivals to the big time. For as predictable as the story becomes I still love it but the griminess of the first half and how well it was photographed make up for it. Plus the idea of carnie film noir is intriguing in itself.
A moody and dark first half, lots of swindling and ambiguity, but I was somehow expecting even more sleaze and a less straightforward plot. Tyrone Power's magnetic performance carries the whole film, and it's a shame he didn't get more roles like this.
Power's portrayal of a slick charlatan who talks his way up from fairground huckster to society spiritualist only to crash back to earth with a mighty ironical thud is truly mesmeric in an extraordinarily bleak and harsh work; a particularly black and uncompromising portrait of human weakness scripted by that great writer of dialogue Furthman, presented gorgeously on screen in noir-ish, lush visuals from Lee Garmes..
What intrigued me the most was that in spite of the somewhat patriarchal times in which the movie was filmed, it seems like Power's character was controlled by the Three Moires, it's like he was just a puppet driven by his own megalomania and a female (non sexual) force.
At first, a Carny love-and-murder tale; then, an attack on modern religion; then, a descent into personal hell. That those three plot elements intersect to create a cohesive whole is saying something. The Hollywood cop-out ending almost (thankfully, only almost) ruins it.