Tuesday, November 11, 2008

IMPACT (1949)

“’Walter Williams’ beautiful widow, who by her own request, sat alone in the family alcove during the services’. Smart. Someone might have caught her licking her chops!”


A cuckolded CEO, a scheming dollface, a scumbag lothario, a crowbar hair parting, a spectacular toy car crash, amazingly insulting Asian-stereotype chase music, the spunkiest auto mechanic since Chico, Bekins Furniture product placements, an incriminating hanky, and a terrible Telecine DVD transfer.

More details here.


Walter Williams (Brian Donlevy) is a forceful businessman who runs a prosperous auto corporation. He adores his beautiful wife Irene (Helen Walker) but she is secretly seeing another man and plotting her husband's murder. Williams leaves town on business and his two-faced wife feigns sickness to avoid accompanying him. She arranges for her lover Jim (Tony Barret) to “run-in” to Williams at a train stop just outside their home city of San Francisco. Posing as a family member, Jim hitches a ride with Williams with a plan of offing him before their final destination. Things go terribly wrong and it’s Jim who gets the big ticket to nowhere instead. Williams slowly discovers the plot against him and wanders aimlessly, no home to return to and no one left to love. The officials pronounce him dead and his wife does the grieving widow bit for the papers. But one skeptical police detective (Charles Coburn) smells a rat and turns up the heat on the investigation. Meanwhile Williams drifts into the town of Larkspur, Idaho and hooks up with the radiant grease monkey Marsha (Ella Raines). He saves her from self-reliance and is hired as a mechanic, hoping to find a new life in the little idyllic town. But things are not going well for Irene back home as she’s been accused of Williams’ murder. Williams and Marsha fall in love, but the news from back home forces him to return and confront the situation, only there’s no welcome home wagon or open arms waiting for him, only another betrayal and a fight for his life.


Impact possesses the storyline and elements of a characteristic film noir: betrayal, murder, vengeance, and seediness. But it’s actually a rather average little melodrama with an upbeatending, goody-two-shoes characters, and scenes shot in daylight that take no advantage of the natural San Francisco atmosphere. Donlevy usually plays tough guys in his other film roles, and breaks type here as a stand-up guy with a heart of gold tainted by duplicity. Raines is piercingly stunning and nice to look at, with a Jennifer Connelly face and Meg Foster eyes, and plays her part well. She’s best known as the title character in Robert Siodmak’s awesome noir Phantom Lady which is sadly and incomprehensibly unavailable on DVD. But it’s the conniving Walker who delivers the best performance in the film. She’s given the weighty task of being the heavy in the movie and she does it with razor sharp wickedness. The film lacks a stylish flair usually associated with film noir, but I guess this was a true B-movie, a second feature to back-up the main and usually bigger budgeted feature. And on that respect, it fairs well as a passable drama with light noir-ish hooks.

No comments: