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Sunday, August 15, 2010

PHANTOM LADY (1944)


This noir about a wrongly accused husband is heavy on the atmospherics and light on logic, but the level of its individual creative elements suffice. Adapted from a Cornell Woolrich story, it was the first film produced by Hitchcock acolyte Joan Harrison (in the ‘50s she’d run his tv series) and helmed by Robert Siodmak who gained his Expressionistic visual style @ UFA studios Berlin back in the ‘20s. Dumped by his wife on their anniversary, Alan Curtis goes to a bar and picks up a date for the night. He returns home to find his wife murdered, the police waiting for him and no alibi since his phantom date has vanished. Only his secretary (Ella Raines) and his best pal (Franchot Tone) believe him. The script doesn’t build much of a case, but Siodmak maintains such a peculiar edge (with mannered acting to match the mannered art direction) that you buy into it. Most of the story follows Raines thru a highly stylized NYC as she tracks down witnesses who refuse to help; a bartender, a showgirl, a taxi driver and most memorably Elisha Cook, Jr. as a drummer with an alarmingly orgasmic beat. How Siodmak got his big jazz solo past the censors is anyone’s guess. (Not yet out on DVD, and VHS copies are going for quite a premium.)

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