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Released in 1951 in the midst of the peak film noir period, "Fugitive
Lady" is a fine noir, and we are fortunate that a print has been found
and is now in some kind of circulation among collectors. The print I
watched was entirely in Italian with clear English subtitles,
well-synchronized, in white, although having a few errors in grammar.
The print itself was of decent quality.
The film was produced in Italy. The road signs are in Italian. The credits are in Italian. The title means "The Dark Road," and that's the name of the novel from which the movie comes.
My copy runs just under 87 minutes, not the 78 minutes that's listed in several sources, including IMDb.
The film begins appropriately enough at night with rain, a shadowed figure moving among brush and trees against a dark sky with ominous music. Later we discover that this is an insurance investigator looking into the death of Eduardo Ciannelli, whose car went off a cliff. I do not know the name of the actor who played the investigator (character name is Jack DeMarco) because the IMDb list doesn't have this character's name.
Ciannelli was married to Janis Paige, who stands to become a rich widow. She's hated as a golddigger by Ciannelli's adopted sister, Binnie Barnes, who really would like to have married Ciannelli herself. Paige has a serious and long-lived romance going on the side, a somewhat rocky relationship that disturbed her lover when she suddenly married Ciannelli.
Told in true noir style, the film features at least three flashbacks. I lost count. No flashbacks within flashbacks, however. In this way we understand the relationships and wonder how there could possibly have been a homicide when Ciannelli was alone in the car and had been drinking heavily.
The movie contains a good many noir-type scenes with appropriate photography, music and set design, creating the prolonged mysterious atmosphere that such a story demands. Definitely, a "dark" kind of story, far, far more so than another recovered film of that era, which is "Escape" with Rex Harrison.
I recommend this. In fairness, I am a film noir buff, attracted to any genuine noir like this. I do think that the existing rating of 3.9 is hardly indicative of this film's worth, even if I am biased. At worst, it might be rated a 5 for rather stretching the plot point or for being heavy on conversation. However, I do believe that even 5 would be too low.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is so far beyond dire we're talking Here Be Dragons. It was the first title in a mini season of films screened in Nitrate prints at the NFT and in their brochure the BFI 'sold' it - along with the other Nitrate movies - on the 'enhanced' image that obtains when shooting on nitrate. I'm here to tell you that I was completely unable to detect anything other than dullness in either the print or the plot. For the record it begins when local gotrocks businessman Eduardo Cianelli mistakes a turn off and drives off a cliff. 90 per cent of interested parties are happy to accept it as kosher but one insurance investigator (let's face it, there's always one) isn't convinced and requests 48 hours to look into it cueing our old friend the flashback during which we learn how singer Janis Paige latched onto Cianelli and wound up as a trophy wife to the chagrin of his stepsister Binnie Barnes. Much is made of the fact that it was shot entirely on location in Italy - explained by the fact that producer Mike Frankovich and his wife, Binnie Barnes, lived there and made ample use of cheap labour in the shape of fifth rate Italian actors. It's ironic that a film that boasts of authentic location work should feature a road sign in perfect English. Danger Dead End. They sure got that one right. For the brain-dead only.
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