Alias Nick Beal

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Alias Nick Beal
Alias nick beal.jpg
Directed by John Farrow
Produced by Endre Bohem
Written by Jonathan Latimer
Mindret Lord (story)
Starring Ray Milland
Audrey Totter
Thomas Mitchell
Music by Franz Waxman
Cinematography Lionel Lindon
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release dates
  • March 4, 1949 (1949-03-04)
Running time
92-93 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Alias Nick Beal (British title: The Contact Man) is a 1949 film retelling of the Faust myth directed by John Farrow and starring Ray Milland, Audrey Totter and Thomas Mitchell (although third-billed, Mitchell plays the leading role). The picture is also known as Dark Circle, Strange Temptation and Alias Nicky Beal.


The story picks up as Frankie Faulkner fails in his attempt to blackmail the district attorney, Joseph Foster, into letting his boss, Hansen, go free from the charges against him. Frankie goes on to recruit young Larry Price, a criminal in the making, to join the boys' club led by Reverend Thomas Garfield, for which Frankie is a sponsor. Joseph is very keen on convicting Hansen for his crimes. He tells the reverend that he literally is prepared to "sell his soul" to get the job done. Later, Joseph is contacted by a man called Nick Beal, who wants to meet him at a dodgy café by the waterfront, called the "China Coast".

Nick, who is really the Devil disguised as a man, delivers Hansen's accounting books to the overjoyed Joseph. After this, Hansen is convicted of his racketeering crimes. Joseph feels guilt over having accepted the books from the stranger, and tells his wife Martha about the meeting. Soon Joseph's name comes up among his friends, including the reverend, Paul Norton and Judge Hobson, as a candidate for the governor's seat. Nick reappears and mysteriously gives Joseph a check on $25,000 to use for his election campaign. Joseph accepts the check, but starts to realize there is something fishy going on. Martha is upset when she hears about the check. Nick hires a prostitute, Donna Allen, to work for him, giving her fancy clothes and a spacious apartment. She then visits the boys' club posing as a contributor to the campaign.

With Donna by his side on the campaign, Joseph turns into a greedy and egotistic man, far from his initial ideals and principals. To get what he wants he is now prepared to make a deal with Frankie. Martha is appalled by his new behavior and they start to drift apart. Nick makes Donna try to seduce Joseph, but at the last minute she gets cold feet and tries to escape, leaving town. She doesn't get away, but is stopped by Nick. Eventually Joseph wins the election but is now too corrupted to win the sympathy and support of his old friends. Rev. Garfield still shows his support for Joseph and suspects he has been duped by the Devil. When Joseph realizes he has been tricked, he tries to get back with his estranged wife, and she suggests they sell the house to pay Nick back. Nick counters by implicating Joseph in the murder of Hansen's bookkeeper, Finch, whose body has just been found. Nick plants a pipe belonging to Joseph on the dead body.

Nick suggests they make a deal, where Joseph will be cleared of suspicion if he gives Nick the state seal. If not, Nick threatens to let Joseph rot away on the island of lost souls. Joseph says yes to the proposition, but has no intention of fulfilling the deal. He resigns as governor and pleads guilty to fraud regarding the evidence against Hansen. Nick summons Joseph to a new meeting at the café. Garfield tells Joseph that he is no longer bound by the terms of the deal, since he has freed himself from sin by confessing and resigning. When Joseph tries to go home instead of the café, Nick takes control of the taxi he is riding and makes him come down to the waterfront. He is followed by Martha and Rev. Garfield, who attend the meeting. Garfield drops his Bible on the contract, and Nick is overpowered by the force of God and flees the scene. Martha and Joseph reconcile and go back to their ordinary life.[1]


Critical reaction[edit]

A 1949 review of the film in The New York Times notes that, "Due to the fine acting and the wily direction, the story plays exceptionally well, but the script tends to be somewhat wobbly and indecisive upon reflection."[2] Film4 commented on the leading man's performance, "Milland is outstanding as the personification of evil - a talent often obscured by his charm and early juvenile good looks."[3]


A 35mm print recently struck from a studio vault print was exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art on November 2, 2013. As of that date, the film could not be shown on television or released as a DVD due to legal complications and could only be seen during individual theatrical exhibitions of that print.


  1. ^ IMDb film profile; accessed March 15, 2014.
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ "Alias Nick Beal Review". Film4. 

External links[edit]