A nerd discovers he's wanted for murder, after escaping death from wreckage plummeting from a skyscraper. Passerby Frank Thompson wakes up in the street, believing it's his lucky day, then ...
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Joseph H. Lewis
Dame May Whitty,
A nerd discovers he's wanted for murder, after escaping death from wreckage plummeting from a skyscraper. Passerby Frank Thompson wakes up in the street, believing it's his lucky day, then rushes home to be told that he left his wife a year ago, with no explanation. Raven-haired Virginia is thrilled to have her sexy geek back in one piece. But as fearsome Danny Nearing, the amnesiac's the target of a city-wide manhunt. Thompson's forced onto a black path of fear, delving for the truth about his lost year, and his sudden amnesia which almost caused his bride to wear black. For the past year, as Nearing, he's carried on a torrid affair with a phantom lady, sexy blonde Ruth Dillon, who has no intention of letting him go back to the wife he claims he has. Is he the brutal killer ? The meek Thompson can't believe that, but how can he counter overwhelming evidence, when he's a small man lost behind a black curtain ? Written by
One of over 700 Paramount Productions, filmed between 1929 and 1949, which were sold to MCA/Universal in 1958 for television distribution, and have been owned and controlled by Universal ever since. Its New York City television premiere took place Friday 30 January 1959 on WCBS (Channel 2). See more »
An interesting amnesia mystery film which lacks real punch
This film has no connection whatever with a film of the same title released in 1930, and starring William Powell. This film is about a man, played by Burgess Meredith, who at the beginning of the film is shown being hit on the head in the street by a collapsing builder's rig. He is apparently uninjured, but in fact he is concussed and believes he is named Frank Thompson. He pulls a cigarette case out of his pocket and he is puzzled that it bears the initials D.N. He notices that those same initials are inside his hat. He rushes 'home' only to discover that the apartment is empty. He discovers that his wife has moved away, and his 'return' to the building is greeted with surprise. He traces his wife and she welcomes him enthusiastically, but when he starts talking about how she reminded him not to forget his muffler on the way to work that morning she points out that it is summer, not winter, and that she has not seen him for a year, since he left her without explanation. These amnesia stories are always very intriguing, since loss of awareness of one's own identity is a kind of metaphor for the existential condition. As Paul Gauguin said: 'Who are we ?' In fact, the true nature of identity is one of the deepest of all mysteries. That is why I have a particular fondness for amnesia films. The central weakness of this film is that Burgess Meredith, however good he is at looking confused because of his amnesia, lacks romantic appeal entirely. Thus, when the lovely Lousie Platt as his wife professes her undying and passionate love for him, and is ecstatic at his return, I stirred uneasily. Burgess Meredith just is not the kind of guy that women slobber over. Then Meredith discovers what the initials D.N. stand for: he has for the past year been living a different life under the name of Danny Nearing. And as Danny, he has been then object of the hysterical affection of film noir glamour gal Claire Trevor. Now, come on! What is the casting gag here? Did somebody with a really wicked sense of humour decide to pair these two? It's like throwing a cold, wet, and limp dishrag into the arms of hottie Claire. Burgess Meredith has about as much erotic intensity as a clam. And he is also the object of the apparent violent hatred of a man who seems to be a gangster, played by the ever-ominous Sheldon Leonard, who shoots at him as he scurries up a fire escape with Claire. The fact that Leonard turns out to be a policeman rather than a hood is only small comfort, since, as we soon discover, 'it's complicated'. The film is based on a story by Cornell Woolrich, one of Hollywood's major mystery writers, known for instance for NIGHT HAS A THOUSAND EYES (1948, see my review). The director was Jack Hively, who did three 'Saint' films. This film would have been so much better with a more appropriate leading man. I hate to be so critical of Burgess Meredith, who was such a fine actor in so many films, but here the error in casting is simply disastrous. Otherwise, putting that central calamity aside, the film is entertaining and of interest.
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