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The City of Chicago is gripped by an Axe Murderer. The streets are empty at night as there has been six murders and six people have been caught, but they are lunatics. Only one person has lived to tell about it and that was Edwina, who is as dumb as a brick. If it were not for Oliver, she would be number seven. When there is a second attempt on Edwina, Oliver figures that the crimes are not random and that someone is hypnotizing these people to do his bidding, but the police and Edwina are skeptical. Written by
Tony Fontana <firstname.lastname@example.org>
That opening is a grabber, straight out of noir classics and Val Lewton's haunted city streets. Too bad that the rest of the movie fails to match this impressive setup. The premise of a mysterious axe murderer striking at seeming random is chilling, especially when we find out there may be more than one. Plus it's the innocent young Edwina (Day) who's being stalked, with only the wise-cracking actor Duffy (Ayres) there to help. And that's part of the movie's unfortunate drop off in impact Duffy's light-hearted attitude tends to undercut the movie's somber visuals.
Then too, as the story evolves, the plot threads spread out too much, getting murky in the process. Too bad, because some of the lighting compositions anticipate post-war noir in striking effect. And get a load of the sepulchral Milton Parsons as the mute nutcase. His spooky appearance remains one of the glories of '40's movies. Too bad his is just a bit part. And speaking of brief appearances, I could have used more of the great Rathbone than what we get. He always lent such dramatic weight to whatever he was in, including his few minutes here.
All in all, it's a somewhat erratic little programmer whose best features belong to the lighting and staging departments. Happily, Day remains an appealing presence.
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