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Friday, July 26, 2013

THE DARK MIRROR (1946)

Heaps o’ fun. Olivia de Havilland tries out her good twin/bad twin act in this psychological murder tale which cleverly uses only her ‘bad’ side profile for the big breakdown scene at the climax. But then, the whole film has a smart swagger to it with helmer Robert Siodmak serving up noir style ‘neat,’ and lenser Milton Krasner keeping the key lights low. Nunnally Johnson’s script cheats toward the end, with one twin unconvincingly ‘gaslighting’ the other, but much of the story is unusually sharp. Structured like a traditional ‘whodunnit,’ the gimmick is that Thomas Mitchell’s police lieutenant can’t get the nice twin to rat out the guilty party, and he certainly can’t charge them both when only one (which one?) is guilty. Lew Ayres pours on the bedside manner as a psychiatric twin specialist who thinks he’s got it all figured out. But even he might be in over his head. Technically, the process shots & optical printer stuff still look great, and the doubling effect only falls down on some of the easy tricks that substitute a body double from the back. Go figure.

SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: The long-standing feud between real life sisters Olivia de Havilland & Joan Fontaine gets quite the (fictional) work out in a big speech on sibling rivalry from Lew Ayres’ doctor. Must have made for an interesting day at the studio.

DOUBLE-BILL: Finally out on DVD (hurrah!), John Ford’s THE WHOLE TOWN’S TALKING/’35 is one of the best doppelgänger Hollywood comedies. Edward G. Robinson is just great as both a tough racketeer & the lookalike Milquetoast, and Jean Arthur has a star-making turn as a sympathetic, but highly confused, confidant.

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