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A woman secretly suffering from kleptomania is hypnotized in an effort to cure her condition. Soon afterwards, she is found at the scene of a murder with no memory of how she got there and seemingly no way to prove her innocence.
It's strange how this Wise movie influenced "Invasion of the body snatchers".The construction is exactly the same:a car belting with a couple inside:close shots on their faces,full of fear.They take refuge in a police station,and the man begins his story which he records on a tape.Like in "body snatchers",there's a description of Kennington,a peaceful town,but little by little,the witness,a journalist, reveals us what lies beneath.And by the way,in 1945,Wise made a movie called "the body snatcher"!
The town seems to be under Sirak's thumb,a local tycoon who has a hand in shady and illegal business.The police is totally corrupted,and ,it's the last analogy with "Body snatchers" ,ordinary people seem contaminated too (the car salesman),or about to be(the journalist's partner).
A private eye tried to spill the beans,but he was murdered soon after having asked for the journalist's help.The murder scene is masterfully directed by Wise whose editing science is astounding:the private,driven back against a dead end street,in a symphony of black and white,by a mysterious car which will come back as an ominous messenger of death,then,abruptly,a trumpet bellowing out in a nightclub.Violence always takes place in the night,in Wise 's world (remember the end of "odds against tomorrow",or even the rumble in "west side story").
The characters are realistic to a fault.No stereotype,no real baddie (except for the gangsters whom we hardly see;their presence can be felt everywhere though,that is to say how great Wise is!)It seems that Sirak is actually overtaken by events.Characters of secondary importance are wonderfully depicted:Sirak's wife,whom we see only twice in the movie appears at first as an indifferent woman,then ,a fearful,pitiful one,an alcoholic at that.
The main message of the movie is that we are not helpless,as the private detective's wife told the journalist soon after her husband 's death.If the gangsters took over the town ,it's because of people (ordinary people) who are too afraid of getting mixed up in a fight against the strong and the mighty,or worse,because bribes make ends meet.
In 1952,with no star,a low budget,and a great modesty,Wise showed the way to modern film noir.
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