(director: Douglas Sirk; screenwriters: story by Jacques Companéez & Simon Gantillon & Ernest Neuville/Leo Rosten; cinematographer: William Daniels; editors: John M. Foley/James E. Newcom; music: Michel Michelet; cast: Lucille Ball (Sandra Carpenter), George Sanders (Robert Fleming), Charles Coburn (Harvey Temple), Sir Cedric Hardwicke (Julian Wild), George Zucco (H.R. Barrett), Boris Karloff (Charles Van Dreuten), Tanis Chandler (Lucy Barnard), Alan Mowbray (Lyle Maxwell alias Maxim Duval), Gerald Hamer (Harry Milton, Theatrical Agent), Alan Napier (Inspector Gordon), Joseph Calleia (Dr. Nicholas Moryani); Runtime: 102; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: James Nasser; Kino Video; 1947)
“A decent thriller about a hunt for a serial killer.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Before becoming associated with melodrama Douglas Sirk (“Hitler’s Madmen”/”All I Desire”/”Written on the Wind”) made this decent thriller about a hunt for a serial killer; it’s a remake of Siodmak’s Pièges, but changes the locale to London and stars a brassy Lucille Ball before she went on to do lighthearted sitcom comedy on the very popular TV show I Love Lucy.
London is plagued with a serial killer preying on young women. After the eighth victim is reported missing and the usual poetry letter waxing poetic about death and beauty being synonymous, “A beauty that only death can embrace,” that’s been lifted from Charles Baudelaire, is sent to the police by the madman to mark his conquest. Inspector Harvey Temple (Charles Coburn) of Scotland Yard talks American taxi-dancer Sandra Carpenter (Lucille Ball) to act as a decoy to get the culprit out in the open. Sandra’s upset because her best friend from the workplace Lucy Barnard (Tanis Chandler) was the last victim, never returning after going on a blind date with a man she met through a newspaper personal ad column. While secretly accompanied by her earnest protector, a crossword puzzle enthusiast detective named H.R. Barrett (George Zucco), who brags that she can depend on him. Meanwhile Sandra has to deal with an insane dress designer Charles Van Dreuten (Boris Karloff), who has her modeling his creation and suddenly goes violently berserk when he thinks she’s a designer spy associated with a white slavery ring led by a dangerous man with many aliases (Alan Mowbray), who represents a gang that lures vulnerable young women with big promises of job opportunities and then takes them to foreign countries where they force them into slave labor.
While Sandra was still employed at the cheap dance hall, before taking up sleuthing, a theatrical agent (Gerald Hamer) arranged for her to go for an audition as a dancer at the big-time nightclub, the womanizing cad Robert Fleming (George Sanders) runs with his reserved effete business partner Julian Wild (Sir Cedric Hardwicke). When Sandra is a no show, Fleming is disappointed because he’s intrigued by her snappy wisecracking American personality over the phone. By chance they meet when Sandra answers a personal ad to meet “music lover” at a Schubert concert, and her personal ad doesn’t show but Fleming attends with Julian. The suave ladies man Fleming and the likable beauty fall in love instantly (very hard to believe) and are set to get married, but she soon finds herself in danger when she discovers in his house a photo of her missing girlfriend and the would-be groom becomes the prime suspect.
The flawed film never settles into a dark and sinister mood (filmed in a Hollywood studio) but succeeds only in keeping things tension-free and lighthearted with continuous breezy comical conversations as Ball does a sturdy Nancy Drew turn at sleuthing with her comical detective partner Zucco (who knew the usually typecast villain could be so amusing!). It can’t quite measure up to compelling film noir, but it’s pleasing and easy to handle despite everything feeling so contrived and confining.
REVIEWED ON 3/7/2007 GRADE: B-