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Friday, March 4, 2016

THE LOCKET (1946)

Slightly crazed (and crazy entertaining) ‘bad seed’ meller opens on a big society wedding for Gene Raymond to mystery gal Lorraine Day. That’s when uninvited Brian Aherne forces his way in, a previous husband hoping to spill the beans to the latest groom before it’s too late! Cue flashback for Aherne to make his case; Day’s a klepto-sociopath! Don’t believe it? Well, Aherne got fooled on his wedding day to her years back when he should have listened to Day’s ex-boyfriend Robert Mitchum . . . cue Bob’s big flashback of romantic woe with this sick chick. What screwed Lorraine up? Where did it all go wrong? Cue big flashback for Lorraine to learn the childhood origin trauma. (For those still counting, that’s a flashback within a flashback within a flashback. Flashback³! And not a moment’s confusion in the telling.* Eat your heart out INCEPTION!) Mid-budget film noir specialist John Brahm was just off one of his best (HANGOVER SQUARE/’45) when he made this furious little winner. The opening reels are a bit too jarring, but it quickly settles into its own anti-logic, offering more thrills & surprises than it has any right to. Stylish camera grabs, too, with a big wedding march climax that’s worth celebrating. And Lorraine Day, a leading lady who never quite made star, finds that the lack of sincerity that may have been her Achilles’ Heel works for her here, pointing to a want of conscience and a missing moral compass. In the film’s most harrowing scene, Brahm (helped by ace noir lenser Nicholas Musuraca shortly before he shot OUT OF THE PAST/’47) moves his camera in so close, you see right thru Day’s heavy make-up to the mottled flesh quivering with something near self-recognition. Sure, it’s just genre stuff, but at times, transcending the usual Hollywood straitjacket.

DOUBLE-BILL:*When it comes to piggyback flashbacks, Michael Curtiz & Humphrey Bogart topped ‘em all with the simultaneously running flashbacks in PASSAGE TO MARSEILLES/’44, taking the count all the way up to . . . is it four or five? Everyone loses count.

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