I'm not sure if this one's been on the shelf for years; it deserves a wide viewing by anyone who loves a stylish 40s mystery. There's a killer on the loose, as is often the case; he makes an ominous entry.
And that's about all I'm going to tell you about the plot. Nothing need be related or spoiled to enjoy the imagery below. Perhaps one of the reasons I enjoyed the movie was its setting: if it's not in a big elegant country house, the sort of baronial places preferred by Rich Authors in those days, it's set in a radio studio. TV was right around the corner in '47; it would change their profession quicker than they might have suspected, or wanted to believe. But for the moment it was still the voice of everyday entertainment.
You have the producer in the booth, the announcer, the fellow entering notes in some sort of log, the live orchestra to provide stingers . . . it's all there. O to have been there myself.
Our host: Claude Raines, a mystery writer who narrates a weekly murder-mystery show. He plays the elder variety of Claude-Raines-roles here, older, sophisticated, sarcastic, with a cruel streak that could surface at any minute.
But if you're going to have a murder mystery, you need a setting like the country house, and you need to fill it with dames. In this case: the inimitable Audrey Totter. Check this outfit:
It's like she has a plank of wood for shoulderpads.
She's bad; you can tell:
This is not a face that will keep a secret if that secret can be used:
Totter was capable of radiating an intense form of anger and hate through her eyes alone, and when she turned those high-beams on someone it's a wonder they film didn't turn to stone, and then burst into flames. It's almost unwise to call this noir; more of a mystery, really, since the standard noir story elements aren't exactly present in abundance. It's bitchier and catty than your standard manly noir. But Michael Curtiz - yes, the director of Casablanca - loads it up with the look of noir. Deep focus and shadows:
Not sure why that chair has to be there, but it is.
Backlit Men in Hats in Alleys, always a favorite:
End-of-the-line prison-yard shots:
And so much more. Like I said, it's stylish, but not exactly a stumper; we know who the murderer is, but we get to see his tricks, once of which relies on some technology that must have struck 1947 audiences like a VCR in 1977. One of those things only the rich can afford.
Here's what grabbed me early on. As Raines reads his take on the radio, we see two men who'll become caught up in the plot; one's on a train, and the other's awake in a cheap hotel. Watch how the camera gets from one to the other. It's almost Lynchian. No collection of 1940s great camera moves should be without it. This video probably doesn't do it justice; seeing on the big screen would have been like turning into a ghost and flying down the street.