Saturday, July 22, 2023

Noir Watch: Impact (1949)

Watched:  07/17/2023
Format:  TCM
Viewing:  First
Director:  Arthur Lubin

Over at Noir Alley on TCM, Eddie Muller does not guarantee that the movies are actually great.  He's providing a wide swath of the material that was offered up as what would retroactively be dubbed "noir", providing a survey of the movement's variety of offerings, the people behind those films and the forces that created the movies.  Crime stories and melodramas, mobsters, detectives, femme fatales, virtuous ladies, and well, well beyond.

Impact (1949) is a femme fatale story of *attempted* murder that has some interesting stuff bookending the film and a lot of tedious stuff in the middle, the portion of which is saved mostly by the existence of Ella Raines as human and co-star.  

I confess - I am not a Brian Donlevy guy.  He doesn't do anything *wrong*, he's in plenty of stuff I've watched and enjoyed, but he's just not someone I'd personally place as a lead in this film.  But this is an indie picture and Donlevy was a get as a former leading man of a decade prior, so I understand why they jumped at the chance to put a 49-year-old dude in the role, even if it feels like the women in the film would more likely see him as a fun uncle.

Donlevy is married to Helen Walker, who seems sweet and great and is completely two-timing him with another fella.  Posing as a long-lost-cousin of Walker, the fella hitches a ride with Donlevy where he attempts to bump him off with a crowbar to the noggin and rolling him down a hill.  In his haste to get away from the scene, he drives directly into a gas truck in the finest use of miniatures you'll see in many-a-noir.  

Donlevy recovers, winds up in Larkspur, BFE, and sulks before finding a job and life with Ella Raines.  As one does.  

Because his car done blowed up, folks think he's dead, and he's pondering let it seem that way, even as cops begin to put the pieces together and figure out what his wife was up to.  She's about to go to trial and maybe get the chair when Ella Raines convinces Donlevy to go back and get real justice.

The cops decide they were wrong and Donlevy's absence means he was trying to get his wife killed and he must have murdered the boyfriend despite any real evidence, and.... it's mildly exhausting.  And makes Ella Raines look like a jerk for putting her dude in this spot.

I dunno.  The movie is... fine?  It's not the best thing you'll see, and you can see what an indie picture could pull off in 1949.  It's not nothing.  I just suspect this thing needed some polish in the script room or in editing.  I won't think about it much after this post.  

It is definitely noir, I'll give it that.  It's got femme fatales and virtuous, wholesome women offering something else.  It's got twitchy guys and murder and bad luck.  The most novel aspect was the twist to Donlevy being held for murder, but that never feels like it'll stick.  But we do get Anna May Wong!

I just didn't love it, and that's ok.  You be you, movie. 

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