STRANGE IMPERSONATION (director: Anthony Mann; screenwriters: story by Lewis Herman & Anne Wigton/Mindret Lord; cinematographer: Robert Pittack; editor: John F. Link; cast: Brenda Marshall (Nora Goodrich), William Gargan (Dr. Stephan Lindstrom), Hillary Brooke (Arline Cole), George Chandler (Jeremiah Wilkins Rinse), Ruth Ford (Jane Karaski), H.B. Warner (Dr. Mansfield), Lyle Talbot (Insp. Malloy), Mary Treen (Nurse), Cay Forrester (Miss Roper); Runtime: 68; MPAA Rating: NR; producer: William Wilder; Republic Pictures/Kino Video; 1946)
“Leaves a bad impression.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
An early work directed by Anthony Mann (“Raw Deal”) that leaves a bad impression, giving few clues to his future greatness. After sitting through a ridiculous tale that is filled with plot holes as large as California, a contrived happy ending is suddenly thrown in without being earned. This oddity cheapie film, making its way in the world of noir, was flatly photographed and the screenplay lacked polish.
Nora Goodrich (Brenda Marshall) is a dedicated research scientist at the Mindret Wilmott Chemical Institute in New York, where she’s occupied with her breakthrough experiment for a new anesthetic and also looking forward to marrying her scientist colleague, Dr. Stephan Lindstrom (William Gargan), upon the experiment’s conclusion. While backing out of a garage, Nora accidentally knocks down a drunk woman, Jane Karaski (Ruth Ford), who mistakenly walked in her path. The woman is only mildly shaken, but ambulance-chasing attorney J. W. Rinse suddenly appears and gives Jane his card and urges her to sue. Nora drives the woman home and gives her $25, quite sure everything is okay. That night Stephan comes over to Jane’s apartment and proposes marriage for tomorrow because the institute is transferring him to their Paris office immediately. Nora says she can’t marry him until the experiment is completed. Stephan tells her to think it over and leaves when Nora’s beautiful lab assistant Arline Cole (Hillary Brooke) enters, she’s here to assist an unauthorized experiment at home as the anxious Nora forgoes clinical tests to test the formula out on herself. While asleep, the formula was tinkered with by Arline and it explodes just as Stephan returns to pick up his briefcase he accidentally left behind. Stephan puts out the flames, but Nora is taken to the hospital and suffers from severe burns to her face–leaving her disfigured. Arline then uses the opportunity to come between the couple and schemes to get Stephan to fall for her, as she has the hospital prevent Stephan from visiting her and bad mouths Stephan for deserting her because she’s no longer pretty. Nora leaves the hospital and is confronted at gunpoint by a crazed Jane, who tells her that the lawyer said the suit is worth $25,000 and demands that money. When Nora says she doesn’t have that kind of money, Jane steals her engagement ring and wallet but Nora tussles with her and in the struggle Jane falls to her death off the penthouse balcony. The dead woman is identified as Nora, so the real Nora decides to go to Los Angeles for plastic surgery and assume Jane’s identity. After a year in the hospital, Jane reads in the newspapers that Arline married Stephan. She returns to New York unrecognized, where she gets hired by Stephan to be his research assistant by coming off as Nora’s best friend since they studied chemistry together at the University of Vermont. Nora soon learns that Arline caused her disfigurement and acts to win Stephan back. The two are planning to go to Paris together without Arline, when Nora’s arrested at the airport for the murder of Nora, as the shyster lawyer points her out to the police so he could collect the reward. The nightmare story ends in the police station with a bogus surprise ending that left me feeling used.
REVIEWED ON 4/23/2005 GRADE: C
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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