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A man is murdered, and a woman called Ruth Collins is seen at the scene of the crime.The case gets tricky, when is found out that Ruth has a twin sister, Terry.They both have to then go see a psychiatrist, Dr.Scott Elliott.The doc falls for the normal sister, but which is which? The other one of them is capable of committing a cold blooded murder, but which one? Robert Siodmak's Film-Noir The Dark Mirror (1946) takes some Freudian turns as it goes on.Olivia de Havilland shines in a dual role.She's terrific as the psychotic sister as well as the normal one.Lew Ayres is great as the Shrink.Character actor Thomas Mitchell does very fine job as Lt.Stevenson.This movie was very fascinating to watch.It gave some challenge finding out which one did it.60 years has done no harm to this film.
Once again, Olivia de Havilland proves that she is one of the most
talented and versatile actresses on the silver screen. She does so here
by accepting the challenge of playing a dual role. Thanks to the
astonishing visual effects and the occasional use of stand-ins, we see
two of her in this movie...playing twin sisters!
Tightly directed by Robert Siodmak (who directed THE KILLERS that same year, which was the film that made stars out of Burt Lancaster and Ava Gardner), this intriguing film flies by at a brisk 85 minutes and is full of twists and turns. Although the film contains an excellent cast (among the supporting members include Thomas Mitchell and Lew Ayres), the mystery in the story is a simple one. Even non-mystery fans will be entertained by the film, since the plot is rather uncomplicated. The film was later adapted for radio as a half-hour episode of "The Screen Director's Playhouse," also starring Olivia. I have a recording of this episode on audio tape and Olivia's performance is fascinating: she lowers and raises the pitch of her voice whenever she plays a separate twin in order for the audience to tell the difference between the two. This episode is a must for Olivia's fans.
Despite the low budget of the film, THE DARK MIRROR contains stark cinematography by Milton Krasner and a very effective music score by Dmitri Tiomkin, as well as unusually high production values. Even when seen in the eyes of someone who is currently living in the generation of digital special effects, the visual effects of the twin sisters are flawless and instantly convincing thanks to Olivia's excellent acting skills and the creativity of the special effects department. How'd they do that?
The film is worth watching, even if it's only for watching the marvelous visual effects. On a personal level, I wonder what it would be like if Olivia and her estranged yet equally-famous sister, Joan Fontaine, ever starred in a film together...
Those were the days.Every director had his Freudian movie during the
glorious forties:Hitchcock had " spellbound",Lang "secret beyond the
door" Tourneur "cat people".... and Siodmak "the dark mirror".and it
stood the test of time quite well ,almost as much as the three works I
mention above.Of course ,the film owes a lot to Olivia de Havilland's
sensational rendition,well half a century before Jeremy Irons' "dead
ringers" or Keaton's "multiplicity".We run the whole gamut, as Siodmak
brought out all his equipment :inkblood test, lie detector,mirror,and
the whole kit.But De Havilland's charisma -at a time when actresses
mastered their audience-survives and remains intact.We often feel
ill-at-ease when we do not know who we're watching anymore(she plays
twin sisters who are suspects in a criminal affair).De Havilland was
perfect when it came to portraying ambiguous women (see also "My cousin
Robert Siodmak had an eventful career:after his debut in Germany,he made some works in France ("Pièges" (1939) is the best and deserves to be watched)then came to America where he made remarkable thrillers ("the spiral staircase";"the killers").His career ended in Europa with interesting -but difficult to see- movies about Nazism ,but the only one of those late movies we can see now is "Katia" (1959),pure schmaltz
A murder is committed , and identical twin sisters , Ruth and Terry
(Olivia de Havilland) are suspects . A prominent psychologist (Lew
Ayres) and a detective (Thomas Mitchell) investigate the deeds to
determine which good-bad siblings killed the mysterious corpse ,
because one of whom is a psycho and nutty woman .
This noir film contains suspense , tensions , psychological drama , a love story and is quite entertaining . Excellent actress Olivia De Havilland gives a completely convincing tour-de-force as a dual role as good and bad girl . Good and fine support cast as Lew Ayres , Thomas Mitchell, Gary Owen and Richard Long . Startling finale climax with an amazing plot twist . Nice special effects perfectly adapted , enabling De Havilland to play two diverse characters , FX are stunningly made by Deveraux Jennins . This psychological thriller has an interesting screenplay brilliantly written by Nunnally Johnson , also producer. Atmospheric musical score by Dimitri Tiomkin based on classic music and evocative cinematography in lights and shades by Milton Krasner . This was first film produced by the new joint venture Universal Pictures-International Pictures . The motion picture was well directed by German director Robert Siodmak who realized his best films during the 40s . His movies reflect a world of desperation , of dark , of threat and killing . The Siodmak's best films are¨ Phantom Lady¨, ¨The spiral staircase¨ and especially : ¨Criss Cross and ¨The killers¨-both starred by Burt Lancaster-, now acknowledged as a classic noir films in which Robert Siodmak set the pattern of the rest of his Hollywood's work, and of course ¨Dark mirror¨.
The film is a little bit light, with a bumbling detective played by Thomas Mitchell and vintage Freudian psychoanalysis presented by Lew Ayres, but the twin sister role, one a good girl the other very bad, played by Olivia De Havilland has its moments. Her soft voice can go either direction, sweet and innocent or cold and devious, and the scenes where she is playing both parts, essentially talking to herself, convey a split personality, which might not have been such a bad idea, instead of making two distinct persons. It reaches a zenith in one scene in their dark bedroom with the innocent twin tormented by the mean one, who's telling her to take her sleep medication, and who in fact would like to see her overdose. Freudianism and bungling detective work win out in the end, making this all seem too convenient, and dodging a lot of the possibilities, but the central part, or parts, is DeHavilland at her best.
Psychology is a dubious science as it is, but, when a Hollywood
screenwriter gets his hands on it, anything even closely resembling
fact is thrown out the window. In the mid-1940s, Freudian psychology
reached the peak of its popularity, and films such as Hitchcock's
'Spellbound (1945)' and Lang's 'Secret Beyond the Door
utilised their own versions of psychoanalysis to provide easy answers
for their characters' delusions. Robert Siodmak's 'The Dark Mirror
(1946)' is no different, in that we are offered a half-baked
pseudo-scientific dissertation on why even identical twins can be
anything but identical when it comes to personality traits. In fact,
screenwriter Nunnally Johnson (who also wrote and directed 'The Three
Faces of Eve (1957)') actively pumps the familiar but questionable
notion that twins respectively represent the good and evil sides of
man. This duality is similar to that explored in the earlier versions
of 'Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1920/1931/1941),' though the two sides of
the human coin are here separated from their mutual shell and allowed
to behave as independent entities.
Olivia de Havilland excels in dual roles as Terry and Ruth Collins, twin sisters who might just have pulled off the perfect crime, even if only one knows it. When the sisters' shared boyfriend is murdered in cold blood, two witnesses place one of the twins at the scene of the crime, while three more provide a solid alibi for the other. The only problem is that nobody can tell the pair apart. A police detective (Thomas Mitchell) is torn apart by the case: how can he charge either woman with murder if he can't decide which of the sisters is, in fact, a murderess? Only through Hollywood's good friend Dr. Freud can the true nature of the crime be exposed. The distinction between the "good" and "insane" twin is clearly drawn early in the film, with de Havilland playing one sister, Terry, as a cocky dominator, and the other, Ruth, as more softly-spoken, with eyes always downcast and hands delicately clasped together. Clarifying the dual relationship is some convenient symbolism used in the film's climax: Terry is dressed in black, and Ruth in white.
Convincing optical effects and the use of body doubles are employed successfully to create the illusion of two Olivia de Havillands. The actress does well as both characters, perhaps channelling her dislike of sister Joan Fontaine to portray the snarling, psychotic and homicidally jealous "evil sister." Though they start out perfectly alike, it doesn't take long for the two Collins sisters to develop distinct personalities in the eyes of the audience, and Siodmak should quickly have dispensed with the obvious name-tags (either a necklace or a single letter pin) added to ensure that the audience could follow who was who. Perhaps misguidedly, the presence of twins is at first played largely for laughs, with composer Dimitri Tiomkin keeping the atmosphere surprisingly light and fluffy. Fortunately, however, the mood darkens substantially in the film's second half, as the hatred simmering slowly within the darker twin threatens to spill over into reality. Though the unlikely psychology behind 'The Dark Mirror' tests one's credulity at regular intervals, the strong acting and unique storyline make this one worth seeking out.
When Dr. Frank Peralta is found stabbed to death straight to the heart
in his apartment, two neighbors swear to the veteran Lt. Stevenson
(Thomas Mitchell), who is charge of the investigation, that they saw
Ruth Collins (Olivia de Havilland) leaving his apartment late night.
The detective interrogates Ruth and she has the alibi of three
witnesses that she was walking around in the Jefferson Park during the
night. Then he visits Ruth in her apartment and discovers that she has
an identical twin sister called Terry. Lt. Stevenson does not know who
the killer is and the prosecutor does not accept to open the case. The
sisters can not find a job and Dr. Scott Elliott (Lew Ayres), who is a
specialist in twins that had been contacted by Lt. Steenson and has a
crush on Ruth, offers a reasonable allowance to the sisters to be
submitted to a series of tests for his research of personalities of
twins. Scott finds through the results that Terry is a psychotic woman
and Ruth might be in danger.
"The Dark Mirror" is a tense psychological film-noir with an intriguing story that has excellent beginning and conclusion. The impressive performance of Olivia de Havilland in a dual role is top-notch, using different attitudes for each sister; and the direction of Robert Siodmak is tight as usual. My vote is eight.
Title (Brazil): "Espelho d'Alma" ("Mirror of the Soul")
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One can possibly write a monograph or study regarding this subject: the
good and bad in humanity as shown by twins in movies. It runs the gamut
in films like A STOLEN LIFE, THE DARK MIRROR, THE CORSICAN BROTHERS,
DEAD RINGER, COBRA WOMAN, even (watered down) in THE PRISONER OF ZENDA.
In the last one, the King is a drunkard, while Rudolph Rassendyl is a
brave, resourceful type (in the actual novel that is the sequel, RUPERT
OF HENZAU, the King develops into a paranoid villain who loathes the
distant cousin who rescued him).
As for the others, Bette Davis's good sister in A STOLEN LIFE watches her bad sister steal Glenn Ford from her. Douglas Fairbanks' wilder brother critically wounds his brother in a duel over a woman in THE CORSICAN BROTHERS. Maria Montez's good and bad sisters in COBRA WOMAN fight to the death for a royal crown. Davis good sister actually entraps herself killing the bad one in DEAD RINGER.
THE DARK MIRROR has the same split between good and bad siblings, but it makes a stab (in fitful, Freudian, Hollywood fashion) at psychoanalyzing the situation. A doctor has been murdered and the suspect is his fiancé, one Ruth Collins (Olivia De Haviland). While Lt. Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell) is questioning Ruth, and seemingly about to close a relatively simple homicide case neatly and quickly, Ruth's identical twin sister Terry shows up. It turns out that one of the two sisters was seen by dozens that night, and the other cannot produce an alibi. But the problem for Stevenson is that the one who was seen never said what her name or identity was: it could have been either Ruth or Terry. Likewise the person who was last with the Victim could have been Ruth or Terry. As Mitchell later says to the psychiatrist, Dr. Scott Elliot (Lew Ayres), unless he happens to grab the girl just after she commits the crime, there is no way to identify the guilty sister from the innocent sister once they are both back in general circulation.
Dr. Elliot is asked to examine both girls quietly. Mitchell and Elliot both are aware that this neat little alibi does not have to work permanently for the girls' advantage. You see, the innocent one does know the guilty one did it, and how long before the innocent one will crack or the guilty one will consider silencing the innocent one? Dr. Elliot studies the girls, dates both, and concludes, Ruth is normal but Terry is psychotic and jealous of her sister. Now they know who is more likely to have been the guilty one, and who the innocent one - but the innocent one still refuses to admit she is shielding the guilty one, and the guilty one (now seeing the innocent one as an impediment to her happiness with Dr. Elliot in the future) is considering how to push the innocent one over the edge into suicide.
The film as a mystery is fairly simplistic, and it's resolution is too fast. But De Haviland makes both sisters have really individual personalities that succeed as separate people. Ayres gives a decent performance trying to balance his professional detachment to his growing love and concern for Ruth. And Mitchell, although supposedly a bumbler at first, does demonstrate a crafty cat-and-mouse technique with Terry at the conclusion of the film.
Okay, with my background as an ex-therapist and psychology teacher, I
was quick to notice that there was a lot of psychological mumbo-jumbo
in this film. The whole notion of a "nice twin" and an "evil twin" just
seems like a silly cliché.
However, if you ignore the improbability of the film, you will be rewarded with a pretty exciting and original film. Olivia DeHavilland plays identical twins and the split screen and other tricks were done pretty seamlessly. Her acting, as usual, was lovely to watch. The film also starred Thomas Mitchell as the cop and Lew Ayers as the psychologist--and both were at about their best.
The story excels in regard to how it portrayed the sociopathic sister. She was pretty realistic, as she was a good example of an Antisocial Personality Disorder--having no conscience and being highly manipulative.
Some other things that I found interesting were the excellent plot twists and suspense elements. Also, I was surprised when I noticed that at least some of the Rorschach cards (for the "ink blot test") were real cards--these are NOT supposed to be shown to the general public and are to only be used for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. And the responses the women gave were pretty realistic. I guess someone slipped up, huh?
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"The Dark Mirror" is an excellent psychological thriller about murder,
jealousy, suspects who are identical twins and a psychologist who helps
the police to identify a murderer. The atmosphere of the piece is, at
times, rather unsettling and intense but it's also intriguing and
extremely enjoyable to watch.
The 1940s was a period when there was a great deal of public awareness of psychoanalysis and Freudian psychology and so the methods used to identify the evil twin in this story would certainly have held a lot of interest and fascination for audiences at that time.
An investigation into the murder of a well known doctor seems to start off well for police Lieutenant Stevenson (Thomas Mitchell) as he quickly has witnesses at his disposal who can positively identify the young woman who was seen coming out of the victim's apartment on the night of the murder. The woman in question works on a magazine stand in the medical building where the late doctor worked but Stevenson encounters a problem when she is able to provide compelling evidence that she was actually four miles away from the murder scene at the critical time.
Later, Stevenson discovers that the suspect is one of a pair of identical twins but then he confronts another problem as the two sisters are unwilling to cooperate and he is unable to make any further progress without any evidence to prove which one is the culprit. It's at this point that he calls in the assistance of Dr Scott Elliott (Lew Ayres), a psychologist whose speciality is research into the characteristics of identical twins.
Dr Elliott carries out a number of tests involving "inkblots", "word association" and polygraphs from which he identifies which sister is capable of committing murder and he then works with Lieutenant Stevenson on a scheme to trap the evil twin into exposing her own guilt.
Robert Siodmak's style of direction is impressive and very effective in building up the suspense. There are some passages where the mood becomes quite sinister and the masterful use of light and shadow enhances this atmosphere enormously. Examples of this are the opening sequence during which the camera surveys the contents of a dark room before discovering the murder victim and a scene involving the twins in which one sister is almost entirely engulfed in shadow.
The techniques used to show both twins on screen simultaneously are totally convincing and Olivia De Havilland's performance in her dual role displays great subtlety and intelligence. The way she conveys the sisters' many similarities whilst also portraying their differences in an understated manner is very accomplished and best appreciated on repeat viewings. Thomas Mitchell is also entertaining as the competent, unassuming and good humoured detective who is often bewildered by what he discovers.
Fans of "Final Analysis" will notice some similarities with this movie; however, in a typical neo-noir subversion of expectations, in the 1992 film, both identity swapping sisters are actually evil.
"The Dark Mirror" is a stylish movie and the generally swift and natural manner in which the action unfolds contributes greatly to its overall appeal.
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