Monday, February 7, 2011

"Impact" with Brian Donlevy, Charles Coburn and Ella Raines

I thought I had seen all the film noir there is to see, but somehow I missed this one. Charles Coburn, usually the guy who plays a beleagured father in law, or industrialist, is delightfully cast out of character in this film as Detective Quincy of the San Francisco Police Department. Brian Donlevy is the hapless and unlucky Walter Williams, a self-made businessman so in love with his wife that he cannot see what is about to happen to him.

When he leaves for a trip to Denver, where he has just purchased 3 new factories, his wife, Irene, played by Helen Walker, arranges to have her husband give a lift to a relative named Jim Torrance, played by Tony Barrett. Tony, who is not a relative, has been having an affair with Irene, and the plan is to have him kill Walter en route to Denver. Irene and Jim then plan to leave the country for Mexico. But it never comes to pass.

After nearly being killed by Jim, Walter Williams is left for dead on the side of the road. When Jim speeds away in Walter's car, he crashes into a gasoline tanker and dies in the inferno. His remains are beyond recognition, so the authorities assume that the dead man is Walter Williams. Meantime Irene is packing, getting ready to leave town with her lover. But, as the days tick by, she becomes increasingly concerned that Jim has double crossed her.

Walter, by this time, has recovered enough to realize just what has happened. Finding himself battered and alone on the road he ends up in a small town, where he lands a job at a service station, fixing cars. The owner of the station is a war widow and soon the two find themselves falling for one another.

As all this is happening, Detective Quincy is pursuing the case. As the circle tightens it begins to look as if Walter discovered the plot to kill him, and then murdered the would be murderer. Irene captilizes upon this twist, leaving the viewer in suspense as Detective Quincy tries to make sense of it all. When Irene is finally arrested for the plot to kill her husband, Walter still remains in the small town, following the case in the papers, relishing the irony of his wifes predicament. Will he remain undercover? Or will he come forward to see that justice is served, and to reclaim his life?

A very tightly written script by Jay Dratler and Dorothy Davenport, combined with the taut direction of Arthur Lubin, make this film a keeper. With wonderful vistas of San Francisco in the late 1940's, many of the scenes were shot on the streets of the city, this is a very entertaining film.

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