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A thug is convicted and undergoes experimental brain surgery to remove the criminal element in his brain. The operation wipes out all memories of his past life, including where he stashed the loot. He is abducted by his gang and they try to beat the truth out of him. His memories return in the form of weird dreams, and he and his old girlfriend track down the clues to find the money. Written by
The first 3-D feature ever released by a major American studio. House of Wax (1953)went into production first, but Columbia rushed "Man in the Dark" - shooting it in a mere 11 days - to get it into theaters just days before "Wax" opened. (Bwana Devil (1952) preceded both of them, but United Artists was not considered a major studio in the early 1950s.) See more »
Noirish 3-D thriller still has a little bit of fizz left in it
Edmond O'Brien has a severe case of retrograde amnesia, but he didn't contract it in the Pacific. He's a robber who got away with $130,000 in a Christmas Eve heist, was convicted and served his time. But he'll get a second chance if he submits to an operation to excise the criminal portion of his brain. Understandably, he's conflicted, and when they move it up from the scheduled day he balks: `I was born on a Monday. I may as well go on one like dirty laundry.' But the operation proves a stunning success, so delicate that it erases all memories of his past life but leaves him with a perfect command of American slang.
But the placid life he leads at the sanitarium pruning hedges and daubing canvases comes to an abrupt halt when he's kidnaped by his old gang, now led by Ted De Corsia. They want the money, which was never recovered; so does an implacable Javert of an insurance investigator. Even his old girlfriend (Audrey Totter) sees him only as a ticket to the high life, until she falls for the new, improved O'Brien and renounces her grasping ways. (The often ill-used Totter shines here, especially on a martini bender when she asks the bartender, `Oh, Fred, what do you do when you hate yourself?')
Odd clues begin to surface from O'Brien's troubled nightmares, however, leading him and Totter (with the rest of the cast plus the police in pursuit) to claim a parcel left at an amusement park. And this is the big set-piece of the movie, originally released in 3-D. Cars come whooshing around the curves and down the dips of a roller coaster while pitched battles are being fought on the tracks. Watching these 3-D movies now is like drinking soda that's gone flat: All the ingredients are there but the sparkle's gone. But in their endearingly gimmicky way, they evoke their era, as do the flats equipped with party lines and furnished with lampshades bearing reproductions of paintings. Man in the Dark's too short, and needs an extra layer of complexity. But there's still a bit of fizz left in it.
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