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Olivia de Havilland,
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An obvious plot and weak script conspire to make this film watchable but not really worth it
Alison Courtland wakes up on a train headed out of New York, with a gun in her bag and no idea how she got there with her last memory being of falling asleep in her bed at home with her husband Richard. While Richard calls the police to report her disappearance, Alison heads home by plane with her new acquaintance Bruce. With Alison sent to a psychiatrist to help her work out what is happening inside her head that is causing her to have these episodes, Richard sneaks off with his glamorous but demanding lover, Daphne.
Could Alison's episodes have a less medical cause and a more sinister one?
Douglas Sirk himself has acknowledged that this is far from being one of his best films but this still has just about enough going for it to be worth seeing. The basic story opens with a really enticing and intriguing scene on the train that offered so much in the way of mystery that it was never going to be able to live up to it. And so the film very quickly becomes a pretty obvious thriller that throws in some genre clichés from noir films but never really gets gripping, dark or thrilling enough to really make a mark. The story never seems to get going because it has no real mystery to it and the only people in the world that don't catch on quickly are Alison and Bruce; this is a problem because we're meant to be going along with them and be involved but instead we are miles ahead of them and just waiting to see how it ends (although we suspect we roughly know). The characters are too thinly painted to make the film work as a noir and throwing a 'paint by the numbers' femme fatale into the mix doesn't do it either.
This is not to say it is without merit because it isn't. At times it is still atmospheric (although never as good as the opening scene or two) and it does do enough to provide entertainment for a few hours but just not as much as it could have done. The fault is not really the actors because the material is pretty run of the mill and doesn't give them a lot of room to lift it. Hence we have Colbert playing a clean cut innocent type without really doing anything of interest with it while Cummings doesn't have a dark bone in his body with a clean all-American type. Ameche at least has something interesting to do and he paints his character as scheming but easily pathetic and hemmed in, in the arms of Daphne. Brooks' Daphne is right out of the noir playbook and is dull and lifeless as a result. Coulouris and Smith have a bit of fun and deliver enjoyable performances with too little screen time but that's about it. Generally the cast can do little because they have been given little.
Overall this is a watchable film but the plot is obvious from the start and the script doesn't really deliver anything in the way of tension or complexity and instead paints everything with broad strokes whether it be simple characters (Alison and Bruce) or genre clichés (femme fatale and man in spell of femme fatale). Sirk's direction is still good and he uses darkness and lighting pretty well to cover some of the film with a bit of atmosphere but he himself has derided this film and I for one am not going to disagree with him to any great extent.
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