Format: Amazon Watch Party
Director: Bernard Vorhaus (sp?)
This is "moral relativism, the movie". Not often do you see a movie where you're straight up unclear why you should care about anyone in the film, but this is it. If you believe women should be helpless dummies, I guess you can pick the two rich, guileless sisters who are shown to mostly be cotton-brained marks through 90 minutes of film, and who discuss their long history of what easy targets they've been, but when your hero of the third reel is the guy who has been outmaneuvered by the even shittier guy in the movie... woof.
These characters kind of all deserve each other.
I dunno. The version we watched for free on Amazon Prime was a very, very rough, dark print that hadn't been touched since being put away probably in 1949. John Alton was the DP, and there's some gorgeous John Alton stuff in this movie that was unfortunately dimmed by time. I will pay to see this again in a restored version just for the photography.
I was willing to see this movie immediately because it co-starred Cathy O'Donnell, who is fantastic in They Live By Night, Side Street and The Best Years of Our Lives, but here she's mostly asked to be a simp and whine a lot, and... it's fine, but it's thankless. Playing a gullible dummy isn't a good look for anyone.
I know Lynn Bari less. She's in Nocturne, which is a fine film, but that's the only place I've seen her. And while the picture was blurry and dark, she's, how does one say? fun to watch.
The plot is that two rich sisters live in a Manderlay like mansion on an ocean cliff. Two years prior, Lynn Bari's husband died in a fiery car crash. She's both mourning him and about to be engaged to a too-practical attorney. Her sister, O'Donnell, is a character type we'd start seeing a lot in this era- the teen or young woman who is certain in her belief she's smarter and wiser than everyone around them.
Well, Lynn is being set up by her housekeeper (who is playing a Swedish maid) and her partner, the shady Alexis (the titular Mr. X, I guess), and they basically do the spiritualism bit on her, convincing her he's magic and there are ghosts.
The movie goes to great pains to show us how the shenanigans of a seance work, and do the job of showing us how a complex spook show convinces both sisters (O'Donnell's character predictably wants to be on Mr. X). But, lo, and behold, the dead husband shows up as NOT dead, and begins blackmailing our scammer into partnering.
And, honestly, the pragmatic attorney does kind of blow. Mr. X is played by character actor Turhan Bey, who was a wildly prolific talent, but who didn't really star in much other than this movie and The Mummy's Tomb. The film's third-reel decision to have him grow a conscience seems... iffy. He's dedicated his whole life to scamming. And I think there's probably a good movie in that idea, but this isn't it.
Anyway, I actually enjoyed watching the film in part due to Alton, the two female leads, and because it's completely bonkers. Is it a good movie? Not particularly. But it's a great late-late-show kind of movie that deserves a better print than what we saw.