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Silly psychological mumbo-jumbo, though quite enjoyable.
"Dark Shadows" is yet another Crime Does Not Pay short from MGM. However, like several other of the wartime films in this series, the format has changed--with no MGM Crime Reporter or fake government official to introduce the film. The only big similarity with the other films is that the film is rather violent.
Henry O'Neill stars in this film as an investigating psychiatrist. When another psychiatrist is murdered, he helps the police investigate the dead man's patients to see if any of them is responsible. Ultimately, he uncovers the culprit--leading to a sensationally violent ending.
This film was heavily influenced by Analytic psychology--the work of Freud and his contemporaries. Because of this, the film suffers from a few common assumptions of the day--assumptions which would today be seen as inaccurate or even silly. First, the whole murder plot boils down to a patient who hates his mother. Mothers were a common source of mental illnesses according to analysts--and moms took a HUGE beating for decades because of this. Second, symbolism was very important--with repetitive patterns--such as trains and graves in this short. While people do sometimes repeat patterns (such as marrying a spouse similar to their father or mother), the need to find patterns and shapes was very much in vogue in 1944.
The bottom line is that this film is enjoyable. Also, parts of it made me laugh, since I used to be a practicing psychotherapist and see how antiquated therapy was back in the day--with an almost instant cure at the film's end and an over-reliance on unproven (and often inaccurate) theories. Still, it is interesting to see a film based on psychiatry and mental illness--a real rarity at the time.
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