Wednesday, June 18, 2008


An obscure Poverty-Row noir gem; it's not terribly well made, but it moves quickly, is full of incident, and winds up being great femme fatale fun. Claire (Leslie Brooks) is a former society reporter who, as the film begins, is juggling three men: 1) rich man Carl (John Holland) whom she's just married; 2) ex-flame Les (Robert Paige) whom she kisses passionately while still wearing her wedding gown; and 3) weaselly Al (James Griffith), a reporter from her past. On their honeymoon, Carl (in a clumsily staged scene) finds Claire writing a love letter to Les and demands a divorce. Wanting to keep her hands on Carl's money, Claire gets a pilot named Blackie (Russ Vincent, doing a low-rent Bogart) to help her in a scheme to kill Carl and make it look like a suicide done while she was out of town. Because the circumstances are deemed suspicious, Al finds himself investigating the death, and it's Les who falls under suspicion. Meanwhile, as Claire has to deal with the return of Blackie who is trying to blackmail her, she gets her paws on a lawyer named Stanley who's running for Congress. After Stanley wins the election, he comes upon Claire cozying up to Les, and, on the advice of a psychiatrist who thinks Claire is a bad marriage prospect, dumps her. In her usual reaction to being dumped, she kills him, but this time she may not get away with it so easily.

It's the crazy narrative, chugging along like a locomotive, that makes this movie transcend its low budget and second-string cast. Claire is a wonderful creation and it would have been great fun to see someone like Barbara Stanwyck or Mary Astor or even DETOUR's Ann Savage in this part. Brooks is OK, but it never feels like she's settled into the role. She's a cross between Jean Heather, who played Stanwyck's daughter in DOUBLE INDEMNITY, and June Lockhart, neither one a femme fatale type. The men are totally interchangeable except for Russ Vincent (who, BTW, eventually married Brooks in real life). The film's style is more cheap than noir until near the end when the camera work gets a little interesting. There are rumors that famous B-director Edgar G. Ulmer had a hand in the screenplay, and indeed, it's the screenplay that is the best part of the movie. At one point, someone delivers a line that sounds an awful lot like "You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," which I've always assumed was a Bob Dylan quote. There's also a great last summation of the character of Claire: "She wasn't even a good newspaperwoman." Not a timeless classic, but a good one to screen for your noir night. [DVD]

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