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John Barrington escapes from an asylum for the criminally-insane and finds refuge on the ranch of turkey-raiser Ezra Thompson. Barrington, who has suffered from amnesia, finds his memory returning slightly and he sets out on his mission of learning the truth about whether or not he really murdered his sweetheart and is actually insane. He goes to Los Angeles to visit his oldest-and-best friend, psychiatrist David Dunbar, who was a witness to Barrington's crime. Dunbar repeats his story to Barrington, convinces Barrington that he did commit the crime, and then betrays him to the police. However, Thompson, Connie Carter and others are not totally convinced of Barrington's guilt. Written by
Les Adams <email@example.com>
Rare appearances by McCambridge, Ireland redeem far-fetched noir
Two years after appearing in All The King's Men, John Ireland and Mercedes McCambridge reunite in The Scarf. Talented actors both, neither of them would enjoy, in number or in quality, movie roles commensurate with their gifts. A recondite find today, The Scarf could hardly have been much less so in 1951; under the `Gloria Productions' imprint, it fell to a German-born director of little reputation, E.A. Dupont.
But while not every emigrant from middle Europe was a Fritz Lang or Robert Siodmak or Billy Wilder, most had tradition behind them and a touch of inspiration, like John Brahm and Edgar G. Ulmer and even Dupont. Though The Scarf starts off dead slow a long, quasi-philosophical dialogue between a turkey-ranching hermit in the California desert (James Barton) and an escapee from an asylum for the criminally insane who has sought refuge with him (Ireland) soon enough the movie picks up its pace and shows flashes of originality and style. The cinematography is by Frank (Franz) Planer, another refugee steeped in Expressionism who had behind, and ahead of, him several noirs.
Not coincidentally, the quickened pace comes with McCambridge's arrival, as a singing bar waitress who hitches a ride with Ireland. With her distinctive organ-pipe voice and her instinct for biting off her lines clean, she brings both quirkiness and force to this standard role (tough gal, good heart). Though some of her best known roles showed noir influences (All The King's Men, Johnny Guitar) she only appeared in two obscure noirs (Lightning Strikes Twice was the other). The cycle is poorer for her rarity.
The Scarf's plot, alas, falls under the rubric far-fetched. It involves Ireland's not quite remembering the crime for which he was committed strangling a girl with her scarf and a sinister psychologist ( Emlyn Williams) somehow in the employ of Ireland's powerful father. Dupont can't do much with the bulk of it (who could?), but along the way sneaks in some arresting sequences. The best occurs when McCambridge has been ordered to leave town on the 11 p.m. bus for Los Angeles; as she vacillates, looking down the dark road at the sign reading `sheriff's station,' it turns into a lure for her to sell out Ireland for the reward on his head, with `$5000" spelled out in beckoning neon.
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