Patterns probably does not exist without Robert Wise’s 1954 film Executive Suite. All told in the history of film, there are still very few quality films that deal with so-called white collar corporate business. There is Margin Call and a few dozen others- but nothing as far as sheer volume in comparison to westerns or gangster films of course.
Fielder Cook (his debut after decades work in television) may be the director but this is Rod Serling’s baby. He is the writer here and the direction is mostly non-descript. This is years before The Twilight Zone for Serling.
Van Heflin stars as Fred Staples. From 1949 to 3:10 to Yuma in 1957 (with Shane half-way between) Heflin was a big deal. Staples is an executive on the rise just getting promoted from Ohio to the big office (on the 40th floor) in New York City. Like his homesteader in Shane, Van Heflin plays a very decent man. Everett Sloane plays the big boss Walter Ramsey. Ed Begley has a key role and Beatrice Straight (twenty years before her turn in Network) has a crucial role as Van Heflin’s wife. Sloane is cold as ice—but he is undeniably intelligent and never entirely wrong- which makes his role here as antagonist (Begley is the victim and Van Heflin between them) even better.
Coffee, elevators, secretaries and meetings- this is where much of the world lives but is, again, rarely depicted on film. Patterns is a cousin to Death of a Salesman and Glengarry GlenRoss. There are some terrifically dramatic board room blowups here- “you wouldn’t try that with me because I’d kill you first”- rich material for these four capable actors.
Manhattan establishing shots each morning- massive skyscrapers shot from the bottom up at low angles.
At the 53-minute mark Van Heflin pauses in a cathedral-like hallway of their office complex on the 40th floor- the shot portrays him from behind in silhouette.
Begley’s character passes away in first person point of view at the 71-minute mark.
Minor flaw but Ed Begley’s character is 62 years old here and his son is just far too young.
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