Monday, August 10, 2015


This anthology movie of three stories of the fantastic is framed by Robert Benchley as a man who is upset over a fortune teller's predictions and some disturbing dreams. He chats with a friend about fate and the friend tells three stories on the subject. In the first tale, set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras, unloved and homely Betty Field (pictured) is in love from afar with handsome young Robert Cummings. When the body of a suicide victim is pulled out of the river, Field is envious but before she can act on her impulse, an old man takes her to a mask shop and tells her to put on a mask and be beautiful until midnight. She and Cummings bond, and she talks him through a rough patch in his life. At midnight, she takes off the mask and her face is beautiful, made that way because she has given up bitterness and given selflessly to another. Next is an adaptation of an Oscar Wilde story in which Edward G. Robinson is told by a palm reader (Thomas Mitchell) that he is going to commit murder. Though he's not a believer in the supernatural, Robinson decides to get it over with and kill someone. He soon finds it's not quite that easy to mess with destiny. The final tale features Charles Boyer as an acrobat billed as the Drunken Gentleman whose act is to walk on the high wire while acting drunk. One night, he has a dream that he falls from the wire and sees a woman in the audience screaming; later, he meets the woman (Barbara Stanwyck) in real life. I think anthology TV shows like Twilight Zone have made movies like this feel obsolete, but in 1943 this was probably seen as unusual. While there are some arresting images in the film, only the first tale is memorable, mostly because of the magical midnight atmosphere. Acting is fine as is the cinematography. This might make good Halloween viewing, maybe as part of a double feature with the British DEAD OF NIGHT. [DVD]

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