Movie Review: Don't Bother to Knock (1952)

by StevenHelmer

A review of the 1952 thriller starring Marilyn Monroe and Richard Widmark.

Synopsis: Still recovering from the mental breakdown caused by her pilot boyfriend's death, Nell is given a second chance when her uncle, an elevator operator, lands her a babysitting job at the hotel he works for. However, things quickly begin to unravel when one of the hotel's guests, also a pilot, mistakes her for a wealthy patron and takes a romantic interest in her. As Nell begins to blend her past with her present, she becomes confused and violent.


My wife very rarely watches black-and-white films with me. However, both because she loves Marilyn Monroe and because it was getting too late to watch anything longer than this film, I was able to convince her to watch this thriller with me last night. It was a movie I had heard about but had never actually watched before. And, as it turns out, it was actually a surprisingly good thriller.

The thing that really impressed me about this movie was the depth Monroe showed playing her character, Nell. Nell was not an easy character to pull off. She had to be beautiful but still show insecurity. And, while it was obvious, from the beginning, there was some sort of dark past associated with her, she still needed to be kind enough for the viewer to feel sorry for her. Monroe did this perfectly.

I especially liked her later on in the movie, when Nell began to become confused about who was in the room with her. Her belief it was her deceased boyfriend (who died after proposing to her) and the little girl, Bunny (Donna Corcoran), was trying to ruin their reunion was fascinating to watch and, as she started to show signs of violence toward the child that was left in her charge, managed to have me on the edge of my seat.

Adding to this movie was the way my impression of some of the other actors changed as the movie progressed. The pilot, Jed (Widmark), for example, started out being kind of a jerk but, by the end, was actually somewhat likable.

In comparison, her uncle (Cook, Jr.) seemed like a pretty OK guy when he was first introduced. But, by the end of the movie, I really couldn't tell if he was concerned about his niece or if he was more concerned about keeping his job. I honestly never expected to reach a point where I would end up thinking less of him than a woman that was trying to kill a little girl. But, it did happen. And, that is a big part of the reason why I really enjoyed this movie.

Final Opinion

This is a surprisingly good thriller with some pretty intense moments and characters that are as entertaining as the plot itself. If you have not seen this film, I recommend it.

My Grade: A

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Updated: 04/22/2016, StevenHelmer
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DerdriuMarriner on 02/02/2022

StevenHelmer, Thank you for product lines, pretty pictures and practical information.
Me too, I agree with you and your wife about this film. Have you seen Niagara, in which Marilyn Monroe starred with Joseph Cotten? (I read your review of Shadow of a Doubt, in which Joseph Cotten starred, and it was spot-on!)

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